The main legislation in this area is The Equality Act 2010.
An organisation and / or individual within an organisation can be liable for acts of discrimination. Discrimination can be direct or indirect. It can be intentional or unintentional.
In this section we look at the different types of discrimination and the protected characteristics that are set out in the Equality Act. This section explains the different types of discrimination and what action should be considered to prevent discrimination occurring in the workplace. We consider disability discrimination and the duty to make reasonable adjustments, your equal opportunities policy and why this is so important, and training employees so they know what behaviour is (and is not) acceptable.
Frequently asked questions
Not allowing people to pray during scheduled unpaid breaks could be challenged as religious discrimination under the Equality Act. Regulation 12 of the Working Time Regulations provides for the employee to have 'an uninterrupted period of not less than 20 minutes away from his/ her work station' and as such can be used by the employee for rest, relaxation, reading, prayer etc. A further issue over praying during working hours generally arises with those of a particular faith that are required to pray at specific times of the day if those times fall within 'working hours'. Muslims are required to pray 5 times per day. In a normal working day of 8 hours, 2 of these prayer times will generally fall within the working day; it would generally be considered reasonable to accommodate a request from the employee to use their 20 minutes as two 10 minute breaks, during which they could pray. Depending on the nature of the work and the needs of your business, you may not be able to accommodate a break at a particular time, but you need to be clear to the employee as to the business justification as to why you cannot specifically allocate their break at that time. Permitting requests from employees however for an increased break allowance for prayer in addition to their normal permitted breaks, could be seen as treating them more favourably than others who do not make requests for prayer. It is similar to smokers and whether you allow additional smoking breaks which disadvantages non-smokers. In summary, unless you have a specific business justification as to why you cannot permit an employee to use their entitled breaks to pray, you could be in contravention of the Equality Act by refusing to allow prayer on your premises. You should try to have an understanding of the relevant faith ritual that the employee presents to you and seek to accommodate the employee's desire to engage in those rituals; if you cannot accommodate them, make sure you have a legitimate business reason for not doing so. Recent case law suggests that employers should also consider providing, where possible, a quiet place to pray. This does not necessarily mean building a specific prayer room, but looking around the business premises and allocating a place that is reasonably quiet and where employees can spend time uninterrupted. There is not normally a business justification for not allowing employees a place to pray during contractual/ agreed break times. A claim challenging the failure to provide a quiet place to pray without restrictions, will have a reasonable prospect of success.