Religion or belief is one of nine “protected characteristics” covered by the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”). The other protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex and sexual orientation.
The Act describes “Belief” as any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a lack of belief.
Direct religion or belief discrimination occurs where, because of religion or belief a person (A) treats another (B) less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
Direct discrimination cannot be justified, but an employer might be able to rely on an exception to avoid liability, such as pointing to an occupational requirement.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal (“EAT”) gave guidance on the definition of philosophical belief which included but was not limited to the descriptions below: