Religion in the Workplace Described as 'Cinderella' Discrimination Issue; by Anthony Rees, Employment Law Partner at Eversheds in Cardiff
Byline: By Anthony Rees
LATER this year will see the fifth anniversary of regulations that protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace on grounds of their religious or philosophical beliefs. Nevertheless, the cases that have reached tribunals to date have only really scratched the surface of this highly complex area of law.
For employers in Wales, the trickiest situations to deal with are those where the beliefs of one employee (or more) affect the interests of other members of the workforce. Indeed, the recent case of Ladele v London Borough of Islington illustrates the point well.
Lillian Ladele, who was a marriage registrar, claimed that she was harassed and discriminated against for refusing to conduct same-sex ceremonies on the grounds that it went against her religious beliefs. Subsequently, Ms Ladele won her tribunal claim.
In cases like this, employers are in an unenviable position. Although the Ladele tribunal said "it would be wrong for one set of rights to 'trump' another", the reality is that resolving conflicting interests does often involve giving priority to one claim over another.
Employers attempting to achieve the right balance have to be objective and give equal consideration to both sides' views, as their decisions could, ultimately, be subjected to a forensic and very public examination in an employment tribunal. It is no wonder Rachel Krys, director of the Employers Forum on Belief (EFB), recently described religion in the workplace as the "Cinderella" discrimination issue, writing in Equal Opportunities Review that "no one wants to wade in and get it wrong. …