EHRC guidance: Religion or belief

religion or beliefThe Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published two new documents concerning ‘religion or belief’ in the workplace, which you can access here and here.

These documents aim to explain the recent European Court of Human Rights decision in Eweida and others v United Kingdom (see our January Newsletter, Religious rights – are staff protected?) and they offer practical guidance to employers about dealing with religion or belief issues in the light of that judgment. The guidance document contains a number of hypothetical examples of requests made by religious employees and advice as to how employers might deal with them, and the EHRC explains that, while these cases were brought by Christians, the implications of the judgment apply to employees “with any religion or belief, or none”.

However, a quick brain-teaser to ponder on is what might happen to anti-discrimination laws introduced by EU bodies such as this (and the above Protection of political opinions), if the Government does offer the British public their promised ‘in or out of Europe’ referendum by the end of 2017?

Many Conservative members of the Government see EU-derived employment rights as ‘red tape’ preventing businesses from operating efficiently and flexibly and may slash EU derived laws if no longer bound to follow them. However, employees may not need be concerned (if HR teams are representative of public opinion), as a recent CIPD mini-poll found that 61% of its voters would choose to remain in the EU if we were to have a referendum. Just under a third (30%) would vote to leave the EU, 7% weren’t sure and only an encouraging 2% wouldn’t vote! In our opinion it is difficult to see that, politically, the Government would ever actually repeal or significantly water down our current anti-discrimination laws, but you never know….!