UK law does not always protect religious groups sufficiently says Europe

15 January 2013
UK law does not always protect religious groups sufficiently says Europe

The European Court of Human Rights, the international court that hears alleged human right breaches by European states, has ruled that UK law does not always provide sufficient protection against discrimination for employees who may wish to display their religious beliefs in the workplace. 

The case against the UK was brought by four Christians, one of whom was an employee of British Airways who was not permitted to wear her crucifix on display as this breached BA's corporate dress policy.

The ECHR's judgment in January 2013 confirms that a religious practice is protected under European law if it is motivated or inspired by a religion or belief. It does not have to be a required practice of that religion or belief in order to be protected, as was understood previously by courts.


The judgment gives employees slightly wider grounds to argue that a specific practice is connected with their religion. From this, employers must begin the exercise of balancing individual's religious rights with other legitimate concerns such as health and safety and other people's rights not to be discriminated against.


The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced interim guidance for employers on this area which includes examples of how employers may respond to individual cases, under this interpretation of the law.


In light of the guidance, employers operating dress codes or practices which interfere with an individual's religious practices at work may need to revisit these policies.


For further information, see the equality and diversity section of HRBird.

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