On Wednesday the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution on the protection of freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) in the workplace.
CARE was privileged to assist Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and other parliamentarians with the resolution, which highlights the importance of being free to manifest FoRB at work, not just to hold beliefs privately. Despite significant opposition, it passed by 75 votes to 65.
The resolution calls on Member States to "adopt effective anti-discrimination legislation which covers prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion or belief and establish appropriate monitoring mechanisms to assess its implementation."
It also asks Member States to "promote the work of national human rights institutions on combating discrimination, including indirect discrimination based on religion or belief, and encourage them to develop training activities for both public and private employers."
Reasonable accommodation not included
CARE had also worked hard to see recommendations being adopted which would have ensured employers make ‘reasonable accommodation’ for their employees’ religious beliefs to avoid the situation where employees must leave their religious belief at home or, ultimately, choose between their faith and their employment. Unfortunately, the recommendations did not pass at the Plenary.
A significant achievement
However, CARE is very pleased that the resolution passed as a whole. This is a significant moment and is the first time a resolution like this has been adopted in half a decade at the Council of Europe.
The EU and Council of Europe are separate bodies and the UK will remain a Council member for the foreseeable future.
Whilst Council of Europe resolutions are not binding and cannot change the law of member states, they do have political influence. The UK Government will now rightly feel pressure to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief, so individuals won’t have to leave their religious identity at the door of their workplace.