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  • International Workplace
  • 4 May 2007
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Racial and religious discrimination in the workplace

 Racial and Religious Discrimination 2007 White Paper

New guidance has been produced by Workplace Law Network to help employers prevent discrimination on the grounds of race or religion in their workplace. The new Racial and Religious Discrimination 2007 White Paper, which is available to download for free by members of the Workplace Law Network, takes a look at topical issues such as ethnically diverse workplaces and religious dress codes; current issues such as vicarious liability and positive discrimination; and the future of discrimination law. Download the Racial and Religious Discrimination 2007 White Paper below.

This week has seen a lot of activity regarding race and religion at work: the amendments to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 came into force on 30 April (Monday); a case concerning a witch who was dismissed from her teaching assistant’s job reached an undisclosed settlement today (4 May); and new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that Britain’s ethnic minorities are severely under-represented in the workplace.

As previously reported, the definition of a religion, religious belief or philosophical belief has been amended to include a much broader range of philosophical beliefs, to include those of a political or ‘world view’ nature, including scientology. This means that a wider range of employees are now protected under discrimination law so that their political or other views can be freely expressed at work without fear of recrimination. Previously, employers needed to be concerned only with respecting religions, religious beliefs or similar philosophical beliefs in the workplace, but the new legislation means members of the BNP, the Flat Earth Society or even practitioners of the Wicca religion are protected under employment law.

We will be unable to see how these new Regulations would have affected the outcome of Ms Sommer de la Rosa’s employment tribunal, as she and her former employer settled out of court yesterday (3 May), a day before the tribunal was due to be held. But it is perhaps interesting that the case proceeded so far before settling, and the amendment to the Regulations must surely have played some part in this decision.

Also in the news has been the result of research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that claims that Britain’s ethnic minorities have far fewer employment opportunites than their similarly-qualified white British counterparts. The social policy and development charity found that only 20% of working age people of Bangladeshi, 30% of Pakistani and 40% of Black African origin are currently in full-time employment, compared to over 50% of White British people. Despite having the same access to education and being equally qualified, ethnic minority groups are more likely to be paid lower wages and employed in menial and unskilled jobs.

Responding to the research, Jenny Watson, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has said:

“This research reinforces the EOC’s own investigation which shows that the talents and skills of young Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are being squandered. Despite investing in their education and having the support of their families, women often face outdated stereotypes at work – such as the belief that they will be forced to leave work by their families if they have children.

“These perceptions are entirely at odds with the expectations of young women today. The EOC is urging Britain’s employers and policy makers to follow the lead of forward thinking employers who have started to develop cultural intelligence at work, getting the best from all their staff, whatever their background.”

As previously reported by Workplace Law Group, the EOC has, in its Moving on Up: Ethnic Minority Women at Work report, highlighted the difficulties ethnic minorities can face in the workplace, and has called for a ‘cultural shift’ in employers’ attitudes towards this contentious issue. 2007 is supposed to be the ‘Year of Opportunities for All’ and, with this in mind, employers should be doing all they can to make sure all their employees are treated equally and with respect, to promote a healthy working environment and avoid discrimination claims. 

Racial and Religious Discrimination 2007 White Paper

New guidance has been produced by Workplace Law Network to help employers prevent discrimination on the grounds of race or religion in their workplace. The new Racial and Religious Discrimination 2007 White Paper, which is available to download for free by members of the Workplace Law Network, takes a look at topical issues such as ethnically diverse workplaces and religious dress codes; current issues such as vicarious liability and positive discrimination; and the future of discrimination law. Download the Racial and Religious Discrimination 2007 White Paper here.

For more information on Workplace Law Network membership visit http://www.workplacelaw.net/membership or call us on 0870 777 8881.