Religion and belief are notoriously tricky subjects to talk about. Under the Equality Act 2010 (s.10), religion and belief are protected characteristics, which means that employers must be wary of imposing any provision, practice or criterion (PPC) which may be said to discriminate (either directly or indirectly) against their employee’s beliefs. A fundamental question therefore arises: what exactly qualifies as a religion or belief?
Even before the Equality Act 2010, religion and belief were defined extremely broadly by the courts, encompassing not only traditional world faiths, but also other belief-systems such as pacifism, vegetarianism, atheism, and anthropocentric climate change. The recent cases of Eweida and Henderson have continued this broadening trend by making it explicit that a person’s beliefs may not necessarily be shared by others and ruling that it is not the court’s place to determine whether the belief at odds with the PPC is an essential component of the employee’s religion or overall belief system. Indeed, the court in Henderson has now confirmed that any philosophical beliefs – including political ideologies – may be included under the ambit of protected religion and belief.
Rachel O’Connell, Director & Solicitor at Just Employment Ltd