In my August Employment E-Bulletin I mentioned that the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had applied for leave to intervene in the ongoing European Court of Human Rights cases of Nadia Eweida & Shirley Chaplin against the United Kingdom and Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane against the United Kingdom. This has now been granted and EHRC can proceed to make submissions before the Court on the issue of religion or belief discrimination.
There are two aspects to the EHRC's proposed submissions. The first relates to the actual decisions in the cases concerned, including whether the right level of consideration was given to Article 9 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of a claim of indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.
It is the second aspect though which I think is more interesting. As I explained in my previous blog on this subject, the EHRC will put to the Court a proposal that a “reasonable accommodations” approach, similar to the reasonable adjustments concept in disability discrimination, be employed in religion or belief cases. The example the EHRC gave to illustrate the proposal was "if a Jew asks not to have to work on a Saturday for religious reasons, his employer could accommodate this with minimum disruption simply by changing the rota. This would potentially be reasonable and would provide a good outcome for both employee and employer.”
While this concept may seem simple and unproblematic I suspect that employers will be unhappy with what could easily turn out to be a fairly onerous duty. As I mentioned in my earlier blog and to refer back to the EHRC’s own example, even something as apparently simple as switching shifts can cause managerial headaches given the various competing interests involved (religion, childcare committments, social committments).
The EHRC is seeking views on the proposed submissions before 5 September 2011 -- so if you want to make your views heard, you can do so here.