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Introduction to this document

Letter to employee who is imposing strong beliefs

Sometimes you come across employees with strong beliefs. The Equality Act 2010 states that an individual must not be treated less favourably because of this. If employees act inappropriately due to their strongly-held views, you’ll need to take careful action to curb their behaviour while making sure it doesn’t amount to discrimination.  Use our letter for this purpose.

 

Defining religion or belief

The Equality Act 2010 protects the rights of employees to practise their religion and beliefs without fear of discrimination. Under the Act, a “religion means any religion, including a lack of religion, and a belief means any religious or philosophical belief, including a lack of belief. Although religion and a religious belief are relatively easy to define, it’s harder to pin down a philosophical belief. Vegetarianism, pacifism, humanism, atheism, man-made climate change, ethical journalism and the higher purpose of public service broadcasting and animal rights have all been found to be philosophical beliefs. 

Discrimination

Discrimination against an employee because of their religion or belief may be direct, such as when an individual is treated less favourably, or indirect, such as when a policy, provision, criterion or practice disadvantages those who hold a religion or belief and it can’t be objectively justified (i.e. it’s not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate business aim). Discrimination may also take the form of harassment (i.e. when an individual experiences unwanted conduct relating to their religion or belief). However, it’s important to note that an employee’s strongly-held beliefs do not give them the right to discriminate against or harass others, for example, other employees or clients of a different religion or homosexual employees, so there’s a fine balance to be struck where there are competing interests in the workplace.

managing behaviour

Dealing with an employee with passionate beliefs can be tricky as you have to enforce rules on how much, if at all, you’ll allow them to affect what they do in the workplace. At the same time, you have to be careful not to breach the Equality Act 2010 by directly or indirectly discriminating against or harassing them. Sending our letter notifies the employee that their behaviour is unacceptable, while ensuring you’re not discriminating against them. The letter takes the line of asking the employee to refrain from discussing their beliefs during working time, but you may adapt it depending on the circumstances. The important thing is that you don’t place an absolute ban on the employee manifesting their particular religion or beliefs, backed up with a threat of dismissal, as the action that you take needs to be reasonable, proportionate and non-discriminatory.