Related posts:No related photos. Tribunals are no place for religious preachingOn 29 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article A consultation has begun on how the UK should enact EU legislationprotecting employees from discrimination over their religious or philosophicalbeliefs, including humanism. Minister for Women Barbara Roche announced last week that employers willhave to review policies and terms in response to the new laws from December2003. The principle of protecting staff from religious discrimination is a soundone. You have only to look at the negative impact of sectarianism in theworkplaces of Northern Ireland, or the negative experiences of many BritishMuslims to see there is a need for employers to improve their record in thisarea. In practice, however, the new rules could prove highly problematic toimplement. The difficulty of defining what is a legitimate religion or beliefsystem could force firms to accommodate not only relatively well establishedgroups such as Rastafarians or Jehovah’s Witnesses, but, in theory, also groupssuch as Scientologists, anarchists or even fringe cults such as Jedis. It would be nice to think that common sense would prevail and employees willonly make ‘fair and reasonable claims’ as outlined in the draft legislation.Experience of previous employment legislation, however, suggests this may notalways be the case. And an employment tribunal is not the right place to starta philosophical debate about whether something is a legitimate religion or not.Another problem is that the legislation is so wide ranging that iteffectively protects everybody and could therefore be unworkable. To avoid the law leading to the latest silly season of employment tribunals,the Government has a responsibility to provide more guidance to employers aboutwhat is fair and reasonable and give examples of good and bad practice in thisarea. Noel O’Reilly is editor of Personnel Today Comments are closed.