Race, Religion & Employment

Multi Ethnic TeamRace, as defined in the Equality Act 2010, covers skin colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins.

A religion is recognised as something with a clear structure and belief system, examples of which include, among others, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Paganism.

The legislation also protects those who hold beliefs such as environmentalism, or a belief in the importance of animal welfare. One criteria that a belief must satisfy in order to fall under the protection offered by the Equality Act, is that it must be in some way an essential aspect of the way in which the person in question conducts their life.

The ways you might be unlawfully discriminated against due to your race or religion vary. Some are more obvious than others, to find out more see our equality at work guide. 

Occupational requirements

So long as the employer can demonstrate that there is a genuine occupational requirement to employ a person of a certain race or religion, then certain exemptions from the law are allowed. But this requirement must shown to be genuine in terms of the context of the work and the nature of the job.

Good practice for employers

Employers should make general effort to improve diversity and equality in their workplace. This may involve:

  • reviewing all existing policies and practises and updating or amending where necessary to ensure no indirect discrimination
  • educating the workforce, particularly any managers, in all issues relating to discrimination, again with a view to eliminating it in all instances
  • promoting personal responsibility among the workforce, with regard to treating everyone with a level of respect and dignity, regardless of their race or religious belief

The employer should make sure to engage in a level of personal commitment with their workforce, ensuring that:

  • all employees feel totally comfortable disclosing information with regard to protected characteristics such as race and religion
  • a good level of diversity is maintained among staff
  • where necessary, suitable training is available so that all staff understand the issues at hand, and that this training is pursued, not merely acknowledged by the staff

Other points of good practice include reviewing the employment process to ensure that there is no possibility for discrimination. This may include checking the language used in the job advertisement, the dates available for interviews, or any other potential avenue for discrimination.

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