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Religious discrimination: what lessons can we learn as Ramadan ends?

Religious discrimination: what lessons can we learn as Ramadan ends?

As this year’s period of Ramadan, the month during which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day, draws to a close the spotlight once again falls on allegations of discrimination in the workplace.

In this country, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, religion or beliefs.

However, research last year found that almost 70% of Muslim employees had suffered some form of Islamophobia at work with direct and indirect discrimination both more likely to rise during Ramadan.

In a study by the media platform Hyphen and market research company Savanta ComRes, 42% of Muslim workers said they’d experienced some form of discrimination at work social events.

A further 38% said they had suffered abuse during team meetings.

If this happens to you, specialist legal advice is vital and our highly experienced Employment Law team is here to help.

How does the law protect religious beliefs in the workplace?

Muslims are one of the many religious groups protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Under this law, as well as race, religion or belief, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, sex or sexual orientation.

The most common forms of discrimination in the workplace are direct discrimination and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation.

Direct discrimination is when an employer fails to make allowances for followers of one religion but makes allowances for others.

  • Examples include dismissing you or refusing to hire or promote you because of your religious beliefs.

Indirect discrimination is harder to identify. It occurs when an employer applies a provision or practice, such as a policy, which appears to be equal to everyone but actually puts those with a particular religion at a disadvantage. In this case, the person complaining of discrimination must have been disadvantaged as a result.

  • Examples include requiring all employees to dress a certain way when this means someone can’t wear an item of clothing they consider integral to their faith.

What should employers do during Ramadan?

It is important during Ramadan, as well as religious festivals associated with other religions, that employers make any ‘reasonable adjustments’ to address the needs of employees who are fasting during this time.

This includes ensuring flexible working and allowing adjustments to allow fasting, prayers, reflecting on the Quaran and time off to mark Eid, the celebration at the end of the fasting period which this year takes place on 10 April.

Developing a specific policy on religious observance is also advisable, dealing with the employer’s approach to all religions. Keeping up to date on diversity training remains extremely important.

What should you do if you feel you have been discriminated against because of your religion at work?

If you need help and guidance about an incidence of discrimination, please contact Wards Solicitors’ specialist Employment Team.

Wards Solicitors is endorsed as a South West leading firm in the independent Legal 500 list for 2024 having received overwhelmingly positive testimonials from clients.

A client told us recently: "I want to express my gratitude to David and Rebecca for their outstanding efforts on my behalf. Right from our initial discussions, they provided invaluable assistance and were upfront about the merits of my case. Their support made a challenging period much more manageable, and the final outcome exceeded my expectations. I am delighted with the results, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend their services to friends and family facing employment issues in the future.”

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