The Government has emphasised its commitment to upholding freedom of religion in the workplace.
Responding to Roman Catholic Peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad said: “Promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is one of the UK’s longstanding human rights priorities”.
The Minister stated: “The Government is clear that it expects all UK businesses to respect human rights, including FoRB, throughout their operations”.
‘Touchstone human right’
Lord Alton raised the subject following the publication of a joint report by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.
In the report’s foreword, Jim Shannon MP said: “The Freedom of Religion or Belief is a touchstone human right. It enters every aspect of our lives, not only in religious practice. Whether in home life, the workplace, recreation, or any other setting, our belief systems, backgrounds, and identities travel with us.
“This report is a much-needed step in developing governmental thought on FoRB and business, showcasing the fantastic steps which businesses across the world, including many in the UK, are taking”.
And in a research paper on Religion at Work, consultancy firm Pearn Kandola found that Christian participants were “more likely than other religious groups to feel that religion is a ‘taboo’ subject at work, that may cause conflict if discussed”.
Of 401 religious employees in the US and the UK, Christians identified “attitudes towards religious expression” as the main barrier to religious expression at work (42 per cent), followed by “accommodations for religious observance” and “role demands” (both 15 per cent).
One Christian responded: “I have only told my very closest friends the depth of my beliefs because of the way the vast majority of the staff there have ridiculed religion so publicly and so viciously.”
In a separate survey question answered by 805 participants, only 29 per cent of Christian employees agreed with the statement: “I feel comfortable wearing religious dress or symbols in the workplace”.
Earlier this year, The Christian Institute joined with the Evangelical Alliance and the Catholic Union to urge Parliament to uphold freedom of religion at work.
In a letter to the Chair of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, the groups called for religious freedom to be made “a key part” of its current inquiry into human rights at work.
They stated: “Sadly, we know that too many Christians are unable to bring their whole selves to work, and in some cases face disadvantage or discrimination because of their faith, despite laws that should prevent this from happening. This is something experienced by people of other faiths as well.”