Warning over discrimination at work


Jews are still suffering discrimination and bullying in the workplace because of their religion, according to the Board of Deputies.

More than 30 people have contacted the organisation in recent years with problems about leaving work early in winter for Shabbat, while teachers and others have had trouble taking time off for festivals.

Some have even encountered objections to them wearing a kippah.

“On occasions, individuals have lost their jobs due to an unwillingness to accommodate their religious needs or because they are bullied by other staff members,” the Board stated in the draft of a report to go to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“Many individuals are treated poorly and bullied by colleagues because they are supportive of Israel, which spills over into antisemitic harassment.”

The EHRC is collating evidence to assess the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws following the 2010 Equality Act.

Job Centres have sometimes refused to move appointments which clash with Jewish festivals, resulting in people losing benefit payments, the Board said.

“The Job Centre has unfortunately been a problem in several locations across the UK and they all have been unwilling to resolve problems speedily and amicably,” the report said.

Even the Ministry of Justice is criticised for allowing too little time for Jewish lawyers to respond to a consultation because it coincided with a Yomtov period.

Jewish teachers and lecturers have sometimes found it hard to take leave for Jewish festivals during term. University students have had problems rearranging exams, despite interventions on their behalf from chaplains.

“The lack of guidance to inform employers about these problems is certainly a contributing factor that could easily be resolved,” the Board stated.

While some difficulties in the workplace had been easily resolved, others had taken longer to sort out, generating “much bad feeling”. Sometimes, unions had helped but, in a few cases, the dispute had gone to an employment tribunal.

In contrast, St George’s Hospital in London and the Department for Education were two organisations commended for taking account of religious practice.

Although current laws were effective in many areas, the Board called for the EHRC to produce more detailed guidelines with case histories which could improve understanding.

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