Managing religious belief in the workplace

Wednesday July 7, 2021

Freedom of religion is protected under the Irish Constitution and religious belief under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, which means that a person cannot be discriminated against (treated less favourably) because of, or lack of, their religious belief.

Where religion is considered a genuine and justifiable occupational requirement there may be allowances. However, this can be a complex area of employment law and employers must take care when handling situations concerning religious belief to avoid claims of discrimination.

The Employment Equality Acts lay the foundation for how such cases are decided and are crucial for understanding compliance.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015

The Employment Equality Acts (EEA) 1998-2015 provide the legal framework for protecting individuals from unfair treatment.

To fully protect your employees and business, it is critical to understand the EEA as well as ensuring that your workplace culture is actively inclusive.

Under the EEA, there are nine grounds that are legally protected from discrimination. These are:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Membership of the Traveller community

Managing people problems concerning any of these can be risky if the correct procedures are not followed. Especially when more than one protected characteristic is concerned.

Employers should read The EEA in full and seek professional HR advice when applying it to their business.

Cultivating a community of mutual respect in the workplace, through policies and behaviours, not only reduces risk of discrimination, but can improve both well-being and productivity.

Managing religious beliefs in the workplace

When religious belief is misunderstood in the workplace, jumping to conclusions can escalate to a Workplace Relations Commission claim being brought against you.

Conversations and investigations should take place with an employee to fully understand a situation concerning religious belief.

When it comes to deciding if and what action to take, or making sense of the law, don’t forget that we’re here to help.

Preventing People Problems

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