Religion and Belief Equality Policy
13 July 2009
14 April 2010
(or earlier if there are significant legislative changes)
Titles used in this policy maybe subject to change. The titles are accurate at the time of printing.
Please feel free to use the information contained within this Policy by acknowledging the University of Glasgow and/ or the appropriate source.
1. Introduction and statement of intent
1.1 The University of Glasgow is committed to promoting and implementing equality of opportunity in the learning, teaching, research and working environment, in relation to its Religion and Belief Equality Policy.
1.2 The University recognises the valuable present and potential contribution made by staff and students of different cultural, religious, non-religious and philosophical beliefs, which benefit the University community in respect of its learning, teaching, research, management, administration and support service activities.
1.3 The University seeks to eliminate all forms of direct and indirect religion and belief related discrimination, victimisation and harassment and supports the creation of a learning and working environment based on good relations.
2. Scope of the Policy
The Religion and Belief Equality Policy covers all members of the University community, including:
- All members of staff(1) holding a contract of employment, staff from other institutions on placement at, or visiting the University
- All students, including visiting and placement students
- Visitors (where practicable), including persons using the University’s premises
- Contractors working at the University
- Individuals working or acting on the University’s behalf, including suppliers of goods and services.
All staff include - full and part time, sessional, and honorary staff.
3. The Policy
3.1 The University aims to ensure its community is treated with fairness, dignity and respect in relation to religion and belief equality.
3.2 The University has developed the Policy in compliance with and in the spirit of relevant legislation(2), specifically the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and Amendment Regulations 2007(3).
3.3 Religion and belief will not be considered as one of the criteria in any decisions concerning student admissions, progression and support provision and learning and teaching (such as assessments, placement opportunities).
3.4 Religion and belief will not be included in the criteria applied to staff recruitment and selection(4), career development, promotion and staff development opportunities, the terms of employment offered(5), transfer or training, performance management, application of employee relations procedures including discipline, capability and redundancy selection procedures.
3.5 Where possible, appropriate services such as prayer facilities, catering, observance of festivals, dress code, religious observance and leave are provided to meet the cultural and religious needs of all staff and students (see Appendix B).
3.6 The University aims to create a learning and working environment based on good relations between people of all religions or beliefs with a shared commitment to challenging and preventing stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and promoting respect for all.
3.7 Monitoring by religion and belief (together with information on age, gender, ethnic origin and disability, and where practicable, on sexual orientation) will be recorded by the University to ensure that all people applying for jobs or for entry to degree programmes and courses are being fairly treated.
3.8 Under-represented groups are encouraged to apply for work and study at the University.
Including the Human Rights Act 1998.
The regulations [number 14] provide religious organisations with an exemption from the general requirements where it can be established that it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation and to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.
The University of Glasgow may apply a genuine occupational requirement in accordance with legislation to certain posts, for example when appointing Chaplain Advisers.
The University will work within the rules of the appropriate pension schemes for employees.
4. University Responsibilities
The University will ensure that:
4.1 Staff and students are made aware of the Religion and Belief Equality Policy through the University’s web pages, publications and, where appropriate, training.
4.2 It provides appropriate information on religious festivals and faith traditions to students and staff.
4.3 Publicity material reflects the diversity of the University’s community.
4.4 Staff and students are treated fairly, regardless of their religion and belief, and the University will take prompt action over alleged religion and belief discrimination or harassment. Existing procedures for staff and student complaints and discipline will be applied to ensure that they are handled in a just, fair, open and timely manner.
4.5 Staff involved in staff recruitment and student admissions selection panels should receive prior and follow-up training on equality and diversity matters.
4.6 Learning and teaching material, where practical, includes positive, non-stereotypical content for students of all faith and non-faith backgrounds.
4.7 External contractors will be made aware of their responsibility in relation to equality and diversity including religion and belief and will be required to comply with University policies and regulations.
4.8 As part of the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) process, all University policies will be checked to ensure that no one receives less favourable treatment based on their religion and belief(6).
4.9 Managers view sympathetically requests from staff to take time off for religious observance and, where this cannot be accommodated, provide justifiable business/service reason(s).
4.10 Heads of School(7)/ Programme Conveners view sympathetically requests from students to take time off for religious observance and, where this cannot be accommodated, provide justifiable reason(s)(8).
4.11 Accommodation and catering facilities are provided which, as far as practically possible, meet the different cultural and religious needs of members of the University community.
4.12 Honorary Chaplains/ Advisers for faith communities and denominations are appointed(9) to support staff and students.
The Equality and Diversity Unit (EDU) is responsible for providing guidance and support on how to conduct EIA on policy and practice.
Titles used within the Policy reflect the current structure of the University.
Justifiable reasons may include: examination timetabling constraints; late notification of absence requirements; courses requiring 100% attendance for the award of credit could have elements such as laboratories, workshops or placements which cannot be re-scheduled for practical reasons.
Nominations of individuals suitable to be considered for appointment as Honorary Chaplain/ Adviser are made by religious bodies which are members of the Scottish Inter faith Council and in the case of Christian denominations, must also be members of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS).
5. Individual Responsibilities
The cooperation of all University staff, students, contractors and (where practicable) visitors is essential to ensure the success of this Policy. All individuals will be encouraged to:
5.1 Make themselves aware of the University’s Religion and Belief Policy.
5.2 Participate in training which supports the implementation of this Policy, as appropriate.
5.3 Where staff have particular faith-based requirements, it is their responsibility to inform their line manager, as necessary, and discuss how this can best be addressed within overall operational requirements. Staff are responsible for making up any time lost as a result of religious observance that is not covered by holiday or altered working arrangements.
5.4 Where students have particular faith-based requirements and wish to participate in faith-based events, they should request advance permission for absence from class(es) from the Head of School, Course Convener or other appropriate member of staff. However, it remains the student’s responsibility to catch up on any missed learning opportunities.
See Appendix B for information on absence for religious observance which might conflict with timetabling of classes and/or examinations.
6. Where to seek advice and further information (see also section 9)
Where staff and students perceive that they have been unfairly treated in respect of religion and belief, the following protocol applies:
6.1 Staff should speak to their Line Manager in the first instance. Further advice can be sought from the Human Resources Service, Equality and Diversity Unit or Trade Union.
6.2 Students should speak to their Advisor of Studies in the first instance. Further advice can be sought from the SRC Advice Centre, Equality and Diversity Unit, Senate Office, Health, Safety and Wellbeing.
The Religion and Belief Equality Group (RBEG) will monitor the implementation of this Policy. Based on outcomes of monitoring the RBEG may recommend actions to the University’s Equality and Diversity Strategy Committee, as appropriate.
7.1 The University will monitor religion and belief equality for staff and student processes (where practicable), including:
- Staff: recruitment and selection, access to promotion, training, grievances and disciplinary procedures
- Students: The University is investigating monitoring religion and belief in the new Campus Solutions – student records system.
7.2 Information collected for equality groups will be reported in the University’s Equality and Diversity Annual Report.
8. Relevance of the Religion and Belief Policy to other University policies
8.1 This Religion and Belief Policy forms part of a suite of equality policies which reflect the University’s approach to equal opportunity and diversity: www.gla.ac.uk/services/equalitydiversity/
8.2 The University holiday entitlement policies for staff can be found at: www.gla.ac.uk/services/humanresources/policies/h-o/holidays/
8.3 Information on student policies can be found on the University’s Senate Office web page: www.gla.ac.uk/services/senateoffice/academic/studentpolicies/
8.4 Students seeking absence from classes or assessments for religious observance should consult the University's Student Absence Policy at: www.gla.ac.uk/services/senateoffice/academic/studentpolicies/absencepolicystudents/#d.en.105167
8.5 Whilst it is the intention that staff requests for facilities for religious observance be addressed locally and balance the individual’s wishes and the service/business of the School/RI/Service, there may occasionally be disagreement. In this event the help of the Equality and Diversity Unit, Interfaith Chaplaincy or Human Resources may be sought. If the matter is not resolved, the member of staff may consider the use of the Grievance procedure: www.gla.ac.uk/services/humanresources/policies/a-g/grievance/
Definition of religion, belief and discrimination
For the purposes of this Policy, ‘religion and belief’ is given an interpretation consistent with the human rights legislation and to this end includes religious and philosophical convictions (including atheism and agnosticism). This Policy covers individual thought, conscience or religious belief, and also collective manifestation of that opinion or belief with others.
Manifestation of freedom of thought, conscience and religion is not absolute, and intervention may be justified where this is considered necessary to protect the rights of others. The University recognises that it has a positive obligation to promote pluralism and tolerance, and this Policy cannot be interpreted by any group or person as conferring the right to engage in any activity or perform any act that interferes with or infringes upon the rights of others.
A.1 Direct discrimination
Direct discrimination is where people are treated unequally explicitly on grounds of their religion and belief and this cannot be justified. This includes treating a person less favourably because they are perceived to have a particular religion and belief, irrespective of whether that perception is right or wrong. It also includes treating a person less favourably because of someone else’s religion and belief, for example, the religion of their spouse or partner.
For example it is unlawful to:
- decide not to employ someone
- dismiss them
- refuse to provide them with training
- deny them promotion
- give them adverse terms and conditions
because of their religion and belief.
A.2 Indirect discrimination
Indirect discrimination is the use of a provision, criterion or practice that is apparently neutral but places people of a religion and belief at a disadvantage compared with others, unless this can be justified. For example, a manager insists on holding his team meeting to review the week’s performance between 12.30pm-1.30pm on a Friday and the meeting regularly over-runs the stated time. Such a practice would disadvantage Muslim employees who attach particular importance to Friday mid-day prayers and would, therefore, be discriminatory if it could not be justified.
Discrimination by way of victimisation is when a person is treated less favourably than other persons by virtue of something that they have done in connection with religion and belief legislation. For example, making or intending to make a claim for discrimination; or having assisted a colleague to do so.
A.4 Bullying and harassment
Harassment, in terms of religion and belief, is defined as an unlawful act, in which a person’s conduct has the purpose or effect of either violating another’s dignity or creating an offensive environment for them. Bullying includes teasing, tormenting, name-calling, verbal or physical abuse and shouting.
Harassment may not be specifically targeted at an individual but may be the result of behaviour that creates a particular environment or culture. A culture that, for example, tolerates the telling of religious jokes, the use of offensive slang in respect of different religions or beliefs or mocks practices associated with particular religions or beliefs, may be intimidating or hostile.
A.5 Discrimination, harassment or victimisation at the end of a working relationship.
This covers issues such as verbal or written comments. If a manager made negative comments in a reference, for example, to an individual’s lack of flexibility, absence, etc. which occurs as a result of his/her religion and belief, the individual may have been discriminated against on the grounds of his/her religion and belief, even though his/her working relationship with the organisation has ended.
Code of Practice for Implementing the University Religion and Belief Policy
B1. Religious observance
B1.1 The University of Glasgow will make all reasonable efforts to provide suitable accommodation for prayer and religious observance or quiet contemplation where practical.
B1.2 All staff, regardless of their religion and belief, are required to work in accordance with their contract. There is likely to be some flexibility over how the hours are worked whilst still meeting service/business needs. Heads of School/Line Managers should make every attempt to ensure that those whose religion requires them to pray at certain times during the day are enabled to do so through agreed flexible working arrangements. In addition, similar effort should be made to accommodate requests from those who require, for example, an extra hour for midday prayer on Friday, or not to work beyond sunset on Friday, or at the weekends in ways that conflict with their religious beliefs. Similar requests from students should also be considered sympathetically.
B2. Leave for religious festivals and extended leave
B2.1 In the UK, some public holidays coincide with Christian religious festivals and holiday arrangements. In the interests of equality, those practising religions other than Christianity may request annual leave entitlement on the dates most significant to them. These days should be agreed with the Head of School/Line Manager before timetables or assessment dates are drawn up. Requests for holiday entitlement to be taken at times of religious significance, the dates of which are uncertain in certain religions (e.g. based on the lunar calendar) will be treated sympathetically. The number of annual leave days overall will remain as in the contract of employment for staff of any religious belief or none.
B2.2 Staff may request occasional extended leave associated with religious/cultural needs. Line Managers should attempt to accommodate requests for extended leave for the purpose of, for example, going on pilgrimage. If the extended leave exceeds the annual holiday entitlement, the excess days will be counted as unpaid leave.
B2.3 If unclear, advice should be sought from the Equality and Diversity Unit or Human Resources Service.
B3. Assessments, examinations, interviews and placements
B3.1 The University expects each student to take full responsibility for their academic work and academic progress, including class/ placement attendance, assessed assignments and examinations.
B3.2 However, the University recognises that there are circumstances where students may require to be absent, including religious observance, where the nature of the observance prevents attendance at a class or classes.
B3.3 Heads of School, Directors of Services and Examination Officers should consider the main religious festivals when drawing up assessment, examination and interview dates (for student admissions and staff appointments).
B3.4 Reasonable requests from students for extensions to assessment submission deadlines to accommodate religious observance should be considered sympathetically, but only if requests are received as soon as the deadlines are announced.
B3.5 Consideration in examination timetabling requirements will be given to requests from students whose religious observance may result in absence on certain week days or at weekends, or at other times for specific religious festivals, but only if such requests are made early around the time of class enrolment. Later requests, especially if made after examination timetables have been published, may not be granted.
B3.6 Similar consideration (as in B3.5) would be given to students on placements.
B4. Dietary requirements
B4.1 The University of Glasgow is committed to providing specific dietary requirements. Questions about or suggestions for extending the scope of provision should be sent to Hospitality Services(10).
B4.2 Hospitality Services maintain contact with appropriate external suppliers who can cater for specific dietary requirements.
In 2007 the University of Glasgow became the first university in the UK to gain an official ‘Sunflower Standard’ accreditation from the Vegan Society.
B5. Dress code
B5.1 The University does not operate a dress code for staff and students, except for uniformed staff (such as janitorial, security and hospitality staff) and those staff and students required to wear protective clothing, for example, in laboratories and workshops.
B5.2 Students on placement visits may be required to follow particular dress codes, for example dental and medical students on placement in the National Health Service (NHS).
B5.3 The wearing of religious and cultural dress, including clerical collars, headscarves, turbans(11) and kipa (skull cap) is allowed and must not be discouraged. The exception to this is where the health, safety and welfare of the person is compromised by the wearing of such dress or where this is likely to enhance the risk to other persons or where communication is hindered(12).
The following points should be noted:
- Some religions and cultures determine a certain mode of dress. For example, the wearing of compulsory items such as Kara (bangles) by Sikh men and women
- Wearing of clothes displaying obscene material, in any language, or which are in some other way offensive and may breach national law, for example, sectarian or racist slogans will be considered a breach of this Policy and other University policies and regulations. The University upon receipt of a complaint may take appropriate action
- Where necessary, the EDU may be contacted to assist with disseminating appropriate information explaining cultural dress and customs. Advice relating to protective clothing may be sought from the University Services Service of Health, Safety and Wellbeing.
Employment Act 1989, sections 11 and 12, Sikhs allowed to wear turbans in place of hard hats on construction sites.
Motor Cycles Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976, Sikhs allowed turbans in place of crash helmets.
Mandla v Lee (1983), House of Lords court decision, Sikh children allowed to wear turbans at school
Azmi v Kirklees (EAT 30 March 2007). Azmi a school teacher lost her case when the Employment Appeal Tribunal reasonably concluded that her communication had been impaired when she was wearing the veil.
B6. Unacceptable actions or behaviour
The University Religion and Belief Policy aims to ensure equal and fair treatment for everyone, of any religion or none. It is based on the principle that people have the right to their own belief system but not to engage in activities or acts which interferes with the rights and beliefs of others:
B6.1 Any behaviour or actions that are deemed to breach this Policy will be treated seriously by the University and may result in disciplinary action.
B6.2 Any attempt at coercing or threatening others to comply with a particular belief system, for example through unauthorised distribution of literature or through threats or offensive remarks, may result in disciplinary action.
B6.3 The University does not tolerate offensive literature or graffiti on its premises and those found to be responsible are liable to disciplinary action.
B6.4 Examples of unacceptable behaviours are contained within the University's Dignity at Work and Study Policy at: www.gla.ac.uk/services/equalitydiversity/dignityatwork/
The Code of Practice on Unacceptable Behaviour is at:
B7. Faith and reflection facilities and information on campus and in the local vicinity
B7.1 The University’s Chapel is located in the West Quadrangle, Gilmorehill campus and open to people of all religions and belief and non-belief for prayers, reflection and meditation.
B7.2 The Interfaith Chaplaincy provides an inter-faith room in the basement floor (next to 1A the Café) for prayers or quiet contemplation. This can be used by students and staff and can be booked via Chaplaincy staff by members of any faith or belief. Further dedicated space is provided on level 9 of the Library and the School of Veterinary Medicine (Garscube campus). A copy of the Faith and Belief Guide can be found at: www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_169034_en.pdf
B7.3 The Interfaith Chaplaincy also provides storage facilities and aids for worship in support of various faith societies.
B7.4 A Faith and Belief Guide is available for staff and students to raise awareness about the needs of different cultural and religious communities. Information on other local faith facilities can be obtained from the University Interfaith Chaplaincy (see Section 9.2):
B7.5 The Interfaith Chaplaincy facilities are enhanced by other faith provisions in the vicinity (walking distance) of the main University campus including the Catholic Chaplaincy based at Turnbull Hall, 13-15 South Park Terrace, a Mosque on Oakfield Avenue, and the Wellington Church on University Avenue.
The University is committed to promoting equality in all its activities and aims to provide a work, learning, teaching and research environment free from discrimination and unfair treatment.
Legally (disability, gender and race legislation) the University is required to:
- promote equality of opportunity
- eliminate unlawful discrimination
- promote positive attitudes
- foster good relations between different communities.
In addition, the University is committed to monitoring information on age, sexual orientation and religion and belief where appropriate.
The equality legislation also requires public authorities, such as universities, to conduct Equality Impact Assessments on policies and practices, including learning and teaching.
The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic and evidence based process which verifies that policies and practices at the University are fair and inclusive. It aims to meet the legitimate needs of the diverse groups that make up the University community of students and staff.
Equality monitoring is a key process for the successful implementation of equality and diversity policies, action plans and implementing Equality Impact Assessments. Monitoring assists with highlighting positive or negative trends within our University.
Racial origin, like gender and disability, are matters of fact and it is not unlawful to categorise people. However, it is against the law to treat people unfairly because of their background.
The monitoring categories used at the University are in accordance with the Census Office and the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA). The University is required to provide annual statistical returns to HESA.
C2. What does the University intend to do with the information collected?
The University would use the monitoring information to assist with measuring the quality of experience for diverse groups of students and staff, including:
- identify needs of students and staff
- how these are being met/addressed
- whether there are implications for staff development for raising awareness of students and staff to ensure there is no stereotyping
- whether additional resources are required.
The University envisages using the information to work with staff and students to address their needs and thereby help to mainstream equality and diversity and also effectively discharge our legal responsibility.
University Religion and Belief Equality Group
- To promote cultural diversity whereby religion and belief equality is incorporated into all the University’s functions and activities
- To foster good relations and understanding between faith and belief communities on campus
- To act as a channel of communication where issues affecting religion and belief issues can be raised and addressed or referred to appropriate bodies for action
- To oversee the preparation of the annual progress report
- To review the Religion and Belief Equality Group membership and remit annually and to co-opt additional members to the Group as may be required.
The Equality and Diversity Strategy Committee but liaising widely with other committees, managers and officers to promote religion and belief equality on campus.
Chair, the Religion and Belief Champion
Director of Equality and Diversity
Human Resources Service representative
Roman Catholic Chaplain
International Students Chaplain
Anglican/ Episcopalian Chaplain
Student Rep Council (SRC)
VP Student Support
Free Church of Scotland Chaplain
SRC Council member
For an up-to-date list of the membership please contact the Equality and Diversity Unit.