The principal legislation governing discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the UK is:

  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Employment Rights Act 1996 (especially sections 45 and 101 which protect shop and betting workers who do not wish to work on Sundays)
  • Independent Schools (Employment of Teachers in Schools with a Religious Character) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2037)
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1660) – these apply across England, Scotland and Wales
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/437)
  • Equality Act 2006.

Most employment claims involving religion are brought under The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 which came into force on 2 December 2003 and have already been amended and will be consolidated into a single Act if the Equality Bill comes into force. See question below on future developments.

These Regulations implement the religious discrimination aspects of EC Equal Treatment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC). In addition, the following aspects of the European Human Rights Convention are relevant and will be relied on by some employees:

  • Article 9 – guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • Article 14 – provides that rights and freedoms shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Legislation primarily applying outside employment includes:

  • Part 2 of the Equality Act 2006 which came into force on 30 April 2007 now provides protection against religion or belief discrimination in the wider area of the provision of goods, facilities, premises and the exercise of public functions.
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) (Religion or Belief) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1263) – makes minor amendments to the provisions in the 2003 Regulations dealing with discrimination by qualifications bodies and providers of vocational training. The Regulations came into force on 14 September 2007.
CIPD Resources

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