The government’s new Equality Bill, which received its first reading this week, will finally put an end to the problem of students being forced to sit examinations on Shabbat or festival days.
It will also mean that observant Jews will be able to leave early for Shabbat and take festivals off without taking them out of their holiday allowance — and without fear of discrimination by their employer.
The new legislation also bars discrimination in private members’ clubs, so Jews and their guests cannot be refused entry or access to a bar.
The news about university examinations was welcomed by Union of Jewish Students’ chair Adam Pike, who said: “This has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of Jewish students.”
Community Cohesion Minister Sadiq Khan MP confirmed that universities would have to take notice of the new legislation. They would, he said, have to set examinations “at a time when it is right to do it”.
He said the Bill contained a number of elements of benefit to the Jewish community.
“If a council were keen to provide swimming facilities just for women, but only late on Friday afternoons in an area with a lot of Jewish women, that council would not be discharging its duty to the community.
“Companies and public organisations can’t discriminate if an employee wants a reasonable amount of time off for religious belief.”