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Religion and belief discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 provides protection against unlawful direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation for the protected characteristics of 'religion or belief'.

Key points

  • 'Religion' means any religion, or a lack of religion, and 'belief' means any religious or philosophical belief, or a lack of belief.
  • Direct discrimination occurs where a person is treated, or would be treated, less favourably ‘because of’ religion or belief compared with others in like-for-like circumstances.
  • Indirect religion or belief discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) puts an employee of one religion or belief at a particular at a disadvantage. An employer may be able to justify the PCP as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
  • An occupational requirement, where the nature or context of the work requires a worker to be of a particular religion or belief, or the employer’s ethos requires workers to hold certain beliefs, can be lawful exceptions to direct and indirect discrimination. 
  • Harassment occurs where unwanted conduct related to religion or belief violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. 
  • Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment because of carrying out a ‘protected act’ (for example, bringing a discrimination claim).
  • Employers are liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by their employees ‘in the course of employment’.