Clarke Willmott: Religious discrimination and harassment

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In the wake of the recent and horrific terror attacks in the UK and the reported increase in hate crimes, we reflect upon what protections our UK employment law, in particular discrimination laws, offer Muslim employees at work and what employers should be doing to strike a fair balance between employees.

Muslim employees are protected from discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or belief under the Equality Act 2010. Muslim employees with over two years’ continuous service also have the right not to be unfairly dismissed under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and are also afforded whistleblower protection.

Discrimination by employers can be direct or indirect. However in our experience intentional direct racial or religious discrimination is rare amongst our clients’ businesses, unlike racial or religious harassment (a form of direct discrimination) which can be a more subtle trap for employers to fall into. This is because harassment can also take place by employees against each other without the knowledge of the employer and yet the employer can still be liable for the consequences.

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