The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 prohibit direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment in the employment field (including vocational training) on the grounds of a person’s religion or belief.
Discrimination on religious grounds can sometimes amount to unlawful indirect race discrimination, contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976, if a requirement or condition is imposed at work with which members of a racial group are less likely to be able to comply or where the requirement or condition is not justifiable on non-race related grounds or is to the detriment of the person concerned because he or she cannot comply with it.
In a recent case, a Muslim insurance salesman who took offence when his employer offered alcohol as a performance incentive has lost his claim for religious and race discrimination at the Employment Tribunal (ET).
25-year-old Mr Imran Khan, of Bristol, worked for Direct Line Insurance and was one of 14 people in the city awarded the bonus for sales of pet and household insurance policies. Mr Khan claimed that offering bottles of wine as a reward put him at a disadvantage compared with his colleagues as his religion strictly forbids the consumption of alcohol. He claimed damages for hurt feelings under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations and also accused his employer of indirect racial discrimination because he is of Pakistani origin and therefore more likely to be a Muslim. Mr Khan argued that no alternative incentive award was offered.
The ET judged that a teetotal non-Muslim would have been in exactly the same position as Mr Khan as regards the bonus award and that he had failed to show that he had received less favourable treatment than would have been afforded to such a comparator. The ET also heard that a Muslim colleague had exchanged his wine for gift vouchers.
ACAS has useful guidance on this subject, entitled ‘Religion or Belief and the Workplace’. One key point is to make sure that you understand any requirements of the religion or belief of individual members of staff. The guidance can be found here