Muslims and Employment Law in the UK

With Eid Al Fitr taking place this week we look at employment issues experienced by Muslims in the UK today.

As early as 2014 the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey found that British Muslims faced the worst job discrimination of any minority group. Little has changed since then as The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee “Employment Opportunities in the UK”, Second Report of Session 2016-2017 found that unemployment rates for Muslims at 12.8% are more than twice that of the general population.

Why are Unemployment rates so high?

The reasons for this are complex, however the House of Commons Committee identified that discrimination and Islamophobia are contributory factors. The Committee also found evidence of name-based discrimination.  In response to this the Government announced in October 2015 that name-blind recruitment would be introduced in the Civil Service.  Whilst this measure was welcomed by pressure groups it was suggested that this only went part way to addressing the problem as discrimination experienced during recruitment would simply be replaced by discrimination at interview.

Issues facing Muslim Women in the Workplace

Muslim women face a disproportionately high level of discrimination in the workplace. One of the most common issues is discrimination on the basis of their choice to wear a hijab to work.  In a recent case in the European courts, a Muslim employee Ms Bougnaoui was told not to wear her hijab when meeting with clients following a complaint made by one of those clients to her employer, French IT consultancy firm Micropole SA.  Ms Bougnaoui refused and was subsequently dismissed.  She brought a claim for discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and the European Court of Justice found in her favour.

Employers may ban certain items of clothing if there is a neutral uniform policy or if there is a genuine occupational requirement i.e. health and safety concerns, which means that an employee would not be able to carry out their job properly if they wore a certain item of clothing. It can be an emotive issue for employees and a balancing act for employers who want to avoid discriminating against employees. We would recommend any party who believes they are affected by this issue to seek legal advice.

Guidelines for Employers

In the UK, Religious Beliefs are one of the Protected Characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. There is therefore no 2-year qualifying period of employment for unfair dismissal claims and also no cap on Employment Tribunal awards.

UK employers should be careful not to give less favourable treatment to Muslims or any other employees on the grounds of religion or belief. This includes the recruitment and selection process, terms and conditions of employment, pay, benefits, promotions and training opportunities.  Employers should have an Equal Opportunities and Non-Discrimination Policy in place and all employees and managers should be made aware of this policy as part of the employee induction process.

In our increasingly multi-cultural society, employers who take on board these guidelines and encourage a workforce more representative of the general population will find it easier to engage with a broader range of customers. This can only be a good thing for the success of their business.

At Backhouse Solicitors we are happy to advise if you believe you have experienced discrimination in the workplace on account of your religion. We are equally pleased to work with employers who want to ensure that they have a robust and non-discriminatory recruitment and employment process.

Wishing you Eid Mubarak from Backhouse Solicitors!

The Backhouse Solicitors Team

01245 893400

www.backhouse-solicitors.co.uk