Law and religion round-up – 19th March

A week dominated by Brexit, ‘First Minister vs Prime Minister’ and the fall-out from the first judgments of the CJEU on religious manifestation… 

Brexit

As expected, on Monday the Commons rejected the Lords amendments to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, the Lords did not insist on their amendments and the bill passed. So after a total of 70 hours of debate, the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill completed its passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent on Thursday. The BBC reports that the Prime Minister is expected to wait until the end of the month formally to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave.

Meanwhile in Scotland… Continue reading

Urgent Commons question on CJEU rulings in Achbita and Bougnaoui

Visible Religious Symbols: European Court Ruling

This morning, 15 March, Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con) asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities “if she will make a statement on the recent Court of Justice of the European Union ruling allowing employers to ban workers from wearing religious dress and symbols in the workplace”. Following is a quick summary of the most important points.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Caroline Dinenage) replied as follows:

“The Government are completely opposed to discrimination, including on grounds of gender or religion, or both. It is the right of all women to choose how they dress, and we do not believe that the judgments change that. Exactly the same legal protections apply today as applied before the rulings. In both the Achbita case and the Bougnaoui case, the judgment was that there was no direct discrimination, but that there was some discrimination. A rule is directly discriminatory if it treats someone less favourably because of their sex, race, religion or whatever. A rule is indirectly discriminatory if, on the face of it, it treats everyone the same, but some people, because of their race, religion, sex and so on, find it harder to comply than others do. Indirect discrimination may be justifiable if an employer is acting in a proportionate manner to achieve a legitimate aim. Continue reading

Newsflash: Commons urgent question on religious clothing in the workplace

We understand that there is to be an Urgent Question in the Commons after Question Time today, 15 March, on the impact of the CJEU judgments in Achbita and Bougnaoui on wearing religious clothing in the workplace. We shall report it as soon as the uncorrected Hansard is available on the Commons website.

The CJEU & hijabs at work: Achbita and Bougnaoui

The CJEU Grand Chamber has handed down preliminary rulings in the Belgian and French hijab cases.

The Court has leaned towards the employer in Achbita but towards the employee in Bougnaoui – reflecting the opinions of the two Advocates General.

Background: Achbita

G4S Secure Solutions NV is a Belgian company that provides security, guarding and reception services. Samira Achbita, a Muslim, worked as a receptionist for G4S and after three years she insisted that she should be allowed to wear a hijab at work. G4S prohibits employees from wearing any visible religious, political or philosophical symbols at work and, consequently, dismissed her. The Belgian Cour de Cassation/Hof van Cassatie, before which her wrongful dismissal appeal is pending, asked the CJEU for a preliminary ruling clarifying the prohibition under EU law of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, as follows: Continue reading

Still no time off for religious observance: Gareddu in the EAT

The issue of whether or not attendance at religious festivals in Sardinia could be a genuine manifestation of religion or religious belief been rehearsed again, before an Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Background

In Gareddu v London Underground Ltd [2015] ET/2201116/2015, which we noted here, an Employment Tribunal was asked to adjudicate on the refusal to allow an employee a long block of holiday for purposes that were ostensibly religious. Mr Gareddu, a Roman Catholic from Sardinia, claimed that his religious beliefs required him to return to Sardinia each year for approximately five weeks around the month of August to take part in religious festivals with his family [3]. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 12th February

Short form judgments, bats, child abduction and polygamy… 

Short form judgments

The Master of the Rolls has asked his colleagues in the Court of Appeal to issue shorter judgments where there are no issues of law or principle or of wider general significance and where all the relevant facts are set out in the judgment of the court below and are not disputed in the appeal. A Judicial Office spokesman said that in such cases:

“it may be possible to avoid reciting all the facts, the course of the proceedings and the judgments below, and proceed, after a brief introduction, to a statement of the decision on the principal arguments on the appeal and the outcome of the appeal.” Continue reading