A consortium of Muslim organisations, led by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), and including MDUK Media, The Muslim News
and the British Muslim Research Centre (BMRC), have established a joint project to increase the community's awareness of the new Regulations and to help build capacity in Muslim organisations to face the challenges ahead. The project is to be supported by the DTI until 31 March 2004.
Nusrat Chagtai is the project officer based at the MCB office in Stratford. She can be contacted by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0208 432 0585
The new Employment Regulations relating to Religious Discrimination came into force on 2nd December 2003 - click here for summary of new legislation. For the first time, Muslims are offered protection from religious discrimination and harassment in the workplace. However, there is a need for coordination and good counsel in the type of issues that are raised with employers or pursued as grievances in industrial tribunals. Moreover, Muslim institutions employing staff will also need to exercise vigilance in their recruitment and employment practices so as to avoid claims of unlawful discrimination against them - click here for issues to be considered by employers.
There is a danger that unrealistic demands and trivial grievances may lead to bad case law, which may adversely affect more important cases in the future. There is also the possibility that trivial demands and over-litigation may lead to employer disaffection and relocation, exacerbating the unemployment problems that we face. On the other hand, if relations with employers are handled well, the community stands to gain tremendously. A new workplace culture of dignity and respect for religious obligations is possible, replacing the present non-religiously sensitive, and sometimes hostile, workplace culture.
Briefing sessions are being conducted between December 2003 - February 2004 in various cities, in order to familiarize community workers, shariah scholars, Muslim solicitors and other community advisors with the new legislation. There is no charge for attendance.
The programme comprises a presentation by a Discrimination Law expert on 'The Employment Regulations relating to Religious Discrimination - implications for Muslim employees and Muslim employers', followed by a discussion in order to establish participants' views on the type of issues likely to be raised by Muslim employees at the work place.
Each attendee is provided with an information pack/MCB folder comprising
- the PowerPoint presentation slides
- feedback form
- Registration form for Training Day
- MCB profile
A multilingual leaflet has been prepare for distribution in mosques, Islamic centres and other Muslim institutions. It will describe the new Regulations and provide examples of how it may be applied in an appropriate manner. Click here
FAQs, Good Practice Guide and useful links
The MCB and its project partners are preparing a comprehensive Good Practice Guide for community advice providers and employers.
Department of Trade & Industry
One-Day London Training Workshop
An in-depth programme of lectures and case study work is planned for Saturday 20 March 2004 in London. The aim of this workshop is to provide shariah advisors and counsellors, imams, community workers, Muslim lawyers and other Muslim community advice providers with a detailed explanation of the new law. The event will also provide an opportunity to discuss case studies and likely workplace scenarios facing Muslims with recognised legal experts. There is no charge for attendance.
An outcome of the training will be the establishment of regional panels of suitably qualified individuals in Shariah and British law to respond to local enquiries on the Regulations. Queries received at the MCB office will also be directed to these panels for appropriate responses based on local conditions and knowledge.
The training session are free to community advice providers.
[click here to register]
WHAT THE REGULATIONS SAY—in summary
The Regulations apply to employment – including recruitment, terms and conditions, promotions, transfers, dismissals and training.
The Regulations define religion or belief as being any religion, religious belief or similar philosophical belief. This does not include any philosophical or political belief unless it is similar to religious belief. It will be for the employment tribunals and other courts to decide whether particular circumstances are covered by the Regulations.
The Regulations make it unlawful on the grounds of religion or belief to:
discriminate directly against anyone. That is, to treat them less favourably than others because of their religion or belief
discriminate indirectly against anyone. That is, to apply a criterion, provision or practice which disadvantages people of a particular religion or belief without a good reason
discriminate against someone in some circumstances after the working relationship has ended
Exceptions may be made here in limited circumstances if there is a genuine occupational requirement for the worker to be of a particular religion or belief in order to do the job.
The Regulations also make it unlawful on the grounds of religion or belief to:
subject someone to harassment. Harassment is unwanted conduct that violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them
victimise someone because they have made a complaint or allegation or have given evidence against someone else in relation to a complaint of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief
There is no defence in the Regulations for harassment or victimisation.
The Regulations also encourage, but do not oblige, employers to take positive action where there is evidence of inequality of treatment of a religious group.
Click here for Urdu Translation
ISSUES FOR EMPLOYERS—in summary
The DTI suggests that employers consider in particular the following:
Mainstreaming of religious equality in all policies and processes
Ensuring awareness of the new legislation among staff and managers
In recruiting – advertising, timing of interviews, suitable questions
In managing staff – handling requests for leave, religious observance, harassment and grievances, confidentiality issues
Critical to understanding the new legislation is the concept of reasonable accommodation. This means that an employer must seek to accommodate a religious requirement, if otherwise this would result in discrimination, unless the accommodation would result in disproportionate and unjustifiable loss or hardship to the employer. The onus to be reasonable is, therefore, on both the employer and employee.
Click here for Urdu Translation