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In 2003, the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations came in to force making it unlawful for an employer to treat any employee or prospective employee less favourably on the grounds of the employee’s religion or belief. Whilst religion or belief is not explicitly defined in the legislation, it covers any religion, religious belief or philosophical belief. Discrimination occurs where, for example, an employer pays Christians more than non-Christians – or where, for example, an employer adapts a “no headwear” policy which of course would discriminate against Sikhs wearing turbans as part of their religion.
It is only in very limited circumstances that an employer may be justified in applying a rule that potentially discriminates on these grounds – for example if a butcher required all workers to handle pork (against Jewish and Muslim religions), this could be justified if it can be shown that this requirement is absolutely necessary and that there is no way the job holder could avoid handling pork.
Claims of this nature continue to rise but are often settled by way of Compromise Agreement thus avoiding the need to proceed to the Tribunal.
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