Employers urged to be more flexible with understanding of religious beliefs

Equalities Minister Victoria Atkins is warning businesses to be more understanding about the religious beliefs of their employees ahead of new official guidance that will crack down on ‘non-secular intolerance’.

In the near future, new official guidance expected to be published by the Government Equalities Office will make it an offence for employers to issue discriminatory dress codes.

The new rules, which come in a bid to crack down on sexism in the workplace, will effectively ban employers from telling women what to wear at work – but will also enable religious workers to wear crucifixes and other symbols in instances where these items do not interfere with the nature of their role.

Non-compliant companies could run the risk of being fined or forced to pay compensation once the new rules are in force, it has been warned.

In recent days, Equalities Minister Victoria Atkins has spoken out against religious discrimination in particular.

“Discrimination in the workplace is not only completely unacceptable but also against the law. We will not stand for it,” she said.

“We live in an integrated and cohesive society with a proud tradition of religious tolerance and I want to see that reflected in workplaces across the country.

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with someone’s work, they should just be allowed to get on with the job.”

On the issue of gender discrimination, she added: “Employers should be clear that they cannot have one rule for women and another for men.”

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell Turner Garrett
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell Turner Garrett’s London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.