Religious observance factsheet

Published on: 27/12/2023

Protection from discrimination

Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief was first introduced under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.  These regulations were repealed and replaced on 1 October 2010 by the Equality Act 2010, which contains equivalent provisions and affords the same legal protection. 

 "Religion or belief" is one of nine characteristics protected by the Equality Act and is defined as any religion, religious belief or philosophical belief. Therefore, protection extends beyond the better known religions and faiths to include humanism, pacifism, atheists and agnostics.

Under the Equality Act it is unlawful to:

  • Directly discriminate by treating a person less favourably than another because of religion or belief.
  • Indirectly discriminate by applying a criterion, provision or practice that disadvantages people of a particular religion or belief unless it can be objectively justified.
  • Subject anyone to harassment, i.e. unwanted conduct related to religion or belief that violates a persons dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
  • Victimise someone because they have or intend to make a complaint about religious discrimination, or have given evidence about religious discrimination for somebody else.