Diversity Making News in 2013

6th February 2013

Diversity issues have barely been out of the news in the first six weeks of 2013.

On 15 January the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that a British Airways employee suffered discrimination at work over her Christian beliefs, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Nadia Eweida took her case to the ECHR after BA made her stop wearing her white gold cross visibly. The court said BA had not struck a fair balance between Ms Eweida’s religious beliefs and the company’s wish to “project a certain corporate image”.

It ruled the rights of three others had not been violated by their employers. We asked Vernal Scott, our Principal Consultant about this case, he said:

“This important ruling means employers have discretion to produce reasonable policies, and can require their employees to work to them, whatever their religious beliefs. In other words, employees have a right to hold religious beliefs, but these can be lawfully restricted in the workplace in order to ensure the rights and freedom of other people.

The message coming from Strasbourg is that although people are entitled to hold religious views, that right is severely limited in the workplace when it comes into conflict with the rights of other people. The judgement also hands considerable discretion to employers to set reasonable policies and then insist that employees follow them whatever their religious beliefs.

On 21 January President Obama’s inauguration speech included gay rights and Stonewall, a key milestone in US gay rights. It was the first time a US President had used the word gay in an inaugural address, demonstrating to the world how far the diversity and equality agenda has travelled.

Same sex marriage debate on HR Zone

Then on 5 February MPs in the House of Commons voted to make same sex marriage legal, despite nearly half of all Conservative MPs voting against the motion. And Marshall ACM contributed to the debate on this political and social landmark on the HR Zone website.

HR Zone considered what HR directors should do in light of the repeated claims by opponents of equal marriage rights that mass sackings will follow across the public sector and faith-based organisations as a result. The Catholic Church had already made clear its support for removing gay HR advice.

The HR Zone article went on to say that HR directors need to look at precedent already set, quoting Vernal Scott: “HR departments must take heed of recent judgments in the European courts on this matter

Employees have a right to their beliefs, but these must not hinder workplace operations. Once again, good training and information about equality laws and the moral responsibility to provide all services with excellence rather than personal beliefs in mind; that’s what organisations must do and it’s also what customers have a right to expect.

It is understandable that some people fear change, especially on a matter as significant as marriage. Information, training and time, are the solutions to this anxiety. Equality in love and marriage is the right way forward for a decent and modern society. The only losers are bigotry and ignorance. The Prime Minister and everyone else in support of this change is to be applauded.’??

You can read the article in full here. (Please note: you’ll need to provide an email address and password to access HR Zone).

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