An employer does not need to accommodate an employee's religious belief that is itself discriminatory, at least where providing a non-discriminatory service is one of its aims. This is so even where it would be possible to accommodate the employee without disrupting the service.

An employer's aim of providing a civil partnership registration service and fighting discrimination was legitimate. The employer was not obliged to accommodate a Christian employee's refusal to carry out civil partnership ceremonies, even where this would have been possible without disrupting the service, as the refusal was based on a religious belief which was itself discriminatory. The Court of Appeal has now upheld the EAT ruling (see our January 2009 ebulletin)

The Court of Appeal went further than the EAT, ruling that it would actually have been unlawful for the employer council to have allowed an individual who has already been designated as a civil partnership registrar not to perform the full range of civil partnership registration duties. In contrast, the Court thought that it would probably be lawful for an employer to accept an employee's request not to be designated as a civil partnership registrar due to their religious beliefs.

This means that an employer who wants to try and accommodate such beliefs should avoid appointing the individual to a role involving duties which would conflict with those beliefs, rather than appointing the individual and then adjusting those duties. (LB Islington v Ladele, CA)

The EAT recently reached the same conclusion where a private sector employee was dismissed for failing to confirm that he would perform his duties as counsellor in relation to same-sex couples, due to a conflict with his Christian beliefs. It was a fundamental principle of the employer that the service should be provided on a non-discriminatory basis and the employer was therefore entitled to require all counsellors to perform the full range of services. (McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd, EAT)