Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Oxford Brookes University complete commission from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The legal equality framework in Great Britain which protects the right to hold and express a religion or belief in the workplace has recently been reviewed by Professors Peter Edge and Lucy Vickers from Oxford Brookes’ School of Law. The review looked at key issues such as how religion and belief are defined by the law, the legal protection for religion or belief, the balancing of competing rights and the idea of a duty to reasonable accommodation.
Professor Peter Edge said: “It was great to take the expertise we have built up in research and teaching in this area and apply it to such an important project. Especially pleasing is that the report is being fed back into our undergraduate teaching within weeks of it being released.”
The review builds on past consultation surveying how people responded when asked how religion or belief affected their experiences at work, which varied from workplaces where employees and employers felt they could openly discuss the impact of religion or belief to workplaces where people said religion or belief was mocked. The review finds that although the current legislation and case law protects people with a religion or a belief and those who lack a religion or belief, there are several areas that still need more thought. In addition current views about the legal framework still differ greatly. Some people thought that equality law provided a robust single framework to deal with discrimination and ensure equality for everybody; others has mixed views, and some viewed the law negatively, with some Christian respondents saying that the legal framework had undermined the status of Christianity in Britain. This project also forms part of the work done at Oxford Brookes’ Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice which carries out research linking legal and human resource management to develop best practice policies in managing workplace equalities. The Centre’s areas of expertise include age diversity, gender equality, work-life balance and religion or belief. The Commission will now begin work on its concluding report setting out its own views on these issues using the Oxford Brookes report as a starting point. The Commission’s role is to promote and enforce the laws that protect everyone’s right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.