It is important to remember that people are not defined by any singular characteristic. Social determinants such as ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexual orientation combine and intersect to affect health and wellbeing, often varying across the life-course.   Everyone has at least five protected characteristics.

A narrow focus on one aspect of an individual´s or a group´s identity may therefore work to the detriment of understanding and responding to the reality of their lives and experiences.

Religion is a formalised system of belief that aims to relate humanity to spirituality. The definition of ‘belief’ means an inward conviction, something that is certain to someone and is usually understood to include religious and philosophical convictions, including lack of belief and atheism. Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the legal definition.

The Equality Act covers any religion, religious or non-religious beliefs. lso includes philosophical belief or non-belief.  To be protected, a belief must satisfy various criteria, including that it is a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.  Denominations or sects within a religion can be considered a protected religion or religious belief.

It is unlawful for someone to discriminate against you because of your religion or belief or because you have no religion or belief:

  • in any aspect of employment ;
  • when providing goods, facilities and services;  or
  •  when exercising public functions.

There are, however, some limited exceptions when discrimination may be lawful, for example, in provision of a service to meet particular needs of a group such as a church-based hospice. There are more examples on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Under human rights and anti-discrimination legislation, you have the right to hold your own religious beliefs or other philosophical beliefs similar to a religion. You also have the right to have no religion or belief

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