Region Is on Frontline of Laws against Religious Bias
Byline: Richard Warburton Home Affairs Correspondent
Senior lawyers claim the West Midlands will feel the full brunt of new laws designed to tackle religious discrimination.
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 will close loopholes in Britain's existing equality and discrimination laws.
The Birmingham Law Society said due to the region's ethnic and religious diversity, employers in the West Midlands will be in the front line when the new laws come into effect tomorrow.
While it is currently against the law for employers to discriminate against or harass their staff on the grounds of sex, race, disability and age, it is hard for employees to plead discrimination on the grounds of religion.
The new legislation is intended to prevent scenarios where individuals, whether from the same ethnic background or not, treat each other differently or less favourably because of their religion or beliefs. In this situation, protection offered by the Race Relations Act would be insufficient.
The new legislation also protects lesbian, gay and bisexual workers from discrimination.
Veronica Dean, spokeswoman on employment law for Birmingham Law Society, said there was already a proportionately high number of race discrimination cases that come before local employment tribunals in the region and warned it was likely the pattern will be similar for religious discrimination.
She said the impact for employers was far-reaching, affecting dress codes, break policies, working hours, holidays, catering and even social events. …