Religion or belief is defined under the Equality Act 2010 as any religion or any religious or philosophical belief. However, this also includes the lack of religion or religious belief as well.
Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief is also divided into direct discrimination and indirect discrimination.
Direct discrimination is where, because of a person’s religion or belief, the employer treats a person less favourably than they treat or would treat a person not having that particular religion or belief.
Indirect discrimination is where the employer applies a provision, criterion or practice to the person of a specific religion or belief which puts (or would put) people of that religion or belief at a disadvantage, and is not a proportional means of achieving a legitimate aim.
A worker is also protected against associative and perceptive discrimination. Therefore a worker is protected against discrimination because their friends or family hold a particular religion or belief, or because they refuse to carry out instructions from their employer to discriminate others of a particular religion or belief. A worker is protected against perceptive discrimination in the event they suffer discrimination because of the employer’s perception of their religion or belief notwithstanding whether that perception is rightly held.
The definition of religion is broad and aimed at protecting freedom of thought, conscience and religion. A religion must however have a clear structure and belief system. A philosophical belief must be genuinely held, not simply an opinion or viewpoint, and concern a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. It must attain a certain level of seriousness and importance, be worthy of respect in a demographic society and be compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.