EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief

Religion or belief discrimination refers to differential treatment of individuals or groups based on their system of belief or worship.

Council Directive 2000/78 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation prohibits discrimination, either direct and indirect, on the basis of religion or belief. It covers ‘conditions for access to employment’ including ‘selection criteria and recruitment conditions’, ‘employment and working conditions including dismissals and pay’ and ‘membership of, and involvement in, an organisation of workers or employers, or any organisation whose members carry on a particular profession, including the benefits provided for by such organisations’ (Article 3).

However, with respect to churches and other public and private organisations premised on religion or belief, Article 4(2) states that Member States may keep national legislation or develop new law that incorporates existing national practices so that differential treatment based on a person’s religion or belief will not amount to discrimination where, by reason of their occupational activities or the context in which they are performed, religion or belief constitutes a ‘genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement’. In addition, the directive does not affect the right of churches and other organisations, acting in accordance with national constitutions and laws, to require individuals working for them to act ‘in good faith’ and with loyalty to the organisation’s ethos.

See also: equal treatment; harassment in the workplace; non-discrimination principle.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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