Call for evidence
The Commission has found that there is widespread confusion over the laws protecting religion or belief in the UK. Our new report 'Religion or belief in the workplace and service delivery'contains the findings from a call for evidence launched in August 2014. The aim was to explore the direct and personal experiences of employees and service users concerning religion or belief, as well as the views of employers, service providers, relevant organisations and the legal and advice sectors.
Nearly 2,500 people responded to our call for evidence, making it the largest ever carried out by the Commission. Respondents included people holding a wide range of religious beliefs as well as humanists and atheists, and covered employers and service providers across the public and private sectors.
What are the key findings?
The call for evidence gathered a wide range of both positive and negative experiences of religion or belief in the workplace and service delivery by employees, employers, service users and service providers.
- Positive experiences included respondents describing workplaces with an inclusive environment in which employees and employers were able to discuss openly the impact of religion or belief on employees or customers. Some respondents of different religions also reported they were easily able to take time off to celebrate religious holidays.
- Some employees or service users stated that they had experienced no or few negative issues in their workplace or in receiving a service which they attributed to the view of employers or service providers that religion or belief was a private matter and should not be discussed in the workplace or the service.
- Some employees and students stated that they had encountered hostile and unwelcoming environments in relation to the holding, or not holding, of a religion or belief. The issues raised concerned the recruitment process, working conditions, including the wearing of religious clothing or symbols, promotion and progression, and time off work for religious holidays and holy days. Some reported that particular beliefs were mocked or dismissed in the workplace or classroom, or criticised unwelcome 'preaching' or proselytising, or the expression of hurtful or derogatory remarks aimed at particular groups.
- Employees and employers reported that requests relating to religion or belief issues were not always fairly dealt with in the workplace and some called for better guidance on how to achieve this.
- Many participants were concerned about the right balance between the freedom to express religious views and the right of others to be free from discrimination or harassment. Specific issues raised included conscientious objection in relation to marriage of same sex couples and how to protect employees from harassment and discrimination by staff, customers or service users with a religion. There was a marked divergence of opinion about when it was desirable and appropriate to discuss religious beliefs with service users during the delivery of a service.
- A group of service providers with a religious ethos expressed concerns about reductions in funding opportunities from the public and private sectors.
- Some participants viewed the current equality and human rights legal framework relating to religion or belief favourably, arguing that it provided a single robust framework to deal with discrimination and equality. Others were broadly favourable, but felt a pluralistic approach had not yet gone far enough. A third group viewed the law negatively, with some Christian employers, service users and providers considering that Christianity had lost status as a result of the legal framework.
To improve employers’ and service providers’ understanding of the law the Commission will be drawing on the findings to produce guidance so that all can ensure the protections of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. We will also use the results of the call for evidence to inform our report on the adequacy of the laws protecting religion or belief which we will publish later this year.
- Full call for evidence report findings.
- Call for evidence Executive Summary.
- Our religion or belief strategy.
- Religion or belief in the workplace: An explanation of European Court of Human Rights judgments.
- Briefing paper containing the best available statistical data in relation to religion or belief.
- The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 guidance.
- Employer Code of Practice (includes religion).
- Service Provider Code of Practice (includes religion).
- Research report 97: Review of equality and human rights law relating to religion or belief
If you would like know more about our work on religion or belief, contact us direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated: 22 Apr 2016