The Scottish Government’s plans to pass new anti-sectarianism laws have featured heavily in the media over the past few months. The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill (the “Bill”), anticipated to become law by the end of the year, was introduced in response to a number of recent football-related sectarian incidents in Scotland which have attracted significant media attention.
While the primary focus of this attention has been upon football fans who will undoubtedly be affected by the forthcoming legislative provisions, it should be remembered that sectarianism is an issue which is not merely confined to this group and which affects a much broader cross-section of Scottish society.
Although the Bill directly relates to the sport of football, all employers, especially those in the sports sector, should bear in mind the duties incumbent upon them in relation to religious discrimination against employees under the Equality Act 2010. In particular, it is important for all employers to be aware of, and remain sensitive to, issues of sectarianism and religious bigotry among their workforce. Employers should also have clear policies in place to help prevent religious (and, of course, other forms of discrimination) occurring.
While this applies in equal measure to employers in all sectors, it is perhaps of particular relevance to employers in sports-related industries where such issues may be more prevalent. The ACAS website contains practical advice and guidance which employers may find helpful in preventing religious discrimination in the workplace. The website also contains guidance specifically relating to the Equality Act 2010 which may be of assistance.
The key message which is emerging from the current anti-sectarianism Bill is the promotion of equality and diversity throughout Scotland through the eradication of sectarianism. This is something which all employers should also aspire to encourage in their workplaces through compliance with their duties under the Equality Act.