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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’.
Recent developments

Following consultation on the bands of compensation for injury to feelings in discrimination claims, the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales and Scotland have confirmed an increase to the compensation bands.

The three bands of compensation for injury to feelings were identified in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Policy (No 2) and were previously adjusted in 2009 by Da’Bell v NSPCC. A 2017 Court of Appeal decision in Pereira de Souza v Vinci Construction UK Ltd confirmed the 10 per cent Simmons v Castle uplift should be applied to the bands. This decision triggered the consultation.

For claims presented on or after 11 September 2017, the bands for compensation for injury to feelings have increased to the following:

  • lower band (for less serious cases, such as one off incidents): £800 to £8,400
  • middle band (for serious cases not within the upper band): £8,400 to £25,200
  • upper band (for most serious cases, such as length campaigns): £25,000 to £42,000

These bands will be reviewed in March 2018 and annually thereafter.