Decision: The EAT dismissed the claim of an employee  who alleged unlawful religious discrimination.  She was  dismissed after holding an unauthorised training  session, at which manifestations of her religious beliefs  led to various complaints by staff. The EAT agreed with  the Employment Tribunal that the Claimant was not  treated adversely because of her religion but because of  the way she had manifested her faith.  

In reaching its decision, the EAT noted that there is no  clear dividing line between holding and manifesting a  belief.  In the past it had been thought that employees  could not be treated adversely for holding a belief but  that a different approach might apply to manifesting a  religious belief at work.  This case shows that there is no  such clear dividing line.   Unjustified unfavourable  treatment because an employee has manifested his or  her religion may amount to unlawful discrimination. 

Impact: This case highlights the fact that both the right  to hold a religious belief, and the right to manifest it, are  capable of being protected.  However, in this case the  EAT made it clear that the employee was dismissed  because of the way in which she manifested her religion  rather than the fact of manifestation of the religion itself.   Employers are not necessarily entitled to prevent  employees manifesting their religion at work. However,  employers would be well advised, when restricting  manifestations of religious or philosophical belief, to  tread cautiously to ensure that they are able to justify  the interference, even when employees are unable to  claim unfair dismissal.  However, if on a sensible and  objective review, the manifestation of a belief is causing  problems for other members of staff, this may form the  basis for an employer curbing or otherwise restricting  inappropriate manifestations of that belief at work.

Grace v Places for Children