Employers should ensure they have convincing justifications for refusing to accommodate genuinely held religious beliefs. An employer cannot ignore a religious belief simply because it is not an essential part of the religion.

There remains some uncertainty as to whether a tribunal can scrutinise the nature of an employee's religious belief. In Ladele (above), it was enough that the employee held her view in good faith and the tribunal did not ask whether the view was an essential part of the religion for all or even some other Christians. In contrast, the tribunal in Eweida v BA decided that the belief must relate to something which is objectively a requirement of the religion.

A recent non-employment case imposes a different test. A school refused to exempt a Sikh schoolgirl from their uniform policy so she could wear a kara bangle. Although wearing the kara was not a requirement of her religion, she genuinely believed for reasonable grounds that it was exceptionally important to her religious belief. It was also found to be objectively of exceptional importance to the religion.

This was sufficient to show she was disadvantaged by the school's refusal and the school was unable to justify this, given the discrete nature of the bangle, the fact that other schools permit it, and the lack of real health and safety concerns. (Watkins v Governing Body of Aberdare Girls' High, HC)