Government response to consultation on Caste in Great Britain and equality law

The Government has published its response to the public consultation on Caste in Great Britain and equality law.

As the result of a 2013 amendment to section 9 (5) (a) of the Equality Act 2010, a duty exists to introduce specific legal protection against discrimination because of caste, by making caste an aspect of race for the purposes of the Act. However, the subsequent judgment of an Employment Appeal Tribunal [EAT] in the Tirkey v Chandhok case in 2014 established that many of the facts relevant in considering caste in many of its forms might be equally capable of being considered as part of a person’s ethnic origins, which is already part of the existing race provisions within the Act.

The consultation invited views on whether suitable legal protection against caste discrimination is better ensured by exercising the duty or by relying on emerging case-law under the Act as developed by courts and tribunals. Following the consultation, which received over 16,000 responses, the Government’s response concludes “Having given careful and detailed consideration to the findings of the consultation, Government believes that the best way to provide the necessary protection against unlawful discrimination because of caste is by relying on emerging case-law as developed by courts and tribunals. In particular, we feel this is the more proportionate approach given the extremely low numbers of cases involved and the clearly controversial nature of introducing ‘caste’, as a self-standing element, into British domestic law”.

“The duty that currently appears in section 9 (5) (a) of the Equality Act 2010 requires Government to take action to include caste as an aspect of race for the purposes of the Act. The decision to rely on emerging case-law renders that duty redundant and we will identify the most suitable legislative vehicle that can be used to repeal it at an early opportunity.”

The full response is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/caste-in-great-britain-and-equality-law-a-public-consulation.

Muslims Against Anti-Semitism

In May a group called ‘Muslims Against Anti-Semitism’ took out a full-page advert in the Telegraph. Further information at: http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/british-muslims-write-letter-opposing-anti-semitism-the-time-has-come-to-speak-out/.

New guidance for coroners – respect for religious and cultural wishes

The High Court has ruled illegal the ‘cab rank’ system of burials operated by North London Coroner Mary Hassell. Following this judgement, in R (Adath Yisroel Burial Society & Anor) v HM Senior Coroner for Inner North London, the Chief Coroner, HHJ Mark Lucraft QC, issued in May guidance for coroners: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/guidance-no-28-report-of-death-to-the-coroner-2010517.pdf. Guidance No. 28, ‘Report of death to the Coroner: decision making and expedited decisions’ is “intended to be a practical guide to assist coroners in situations where (a) a bereaved family has made a request to the coroner for urgent consideration of the death of a loved one and/or early release of the body or (b) the coroner or coroner’s officers otherwise become aware of features of a particular death which may justify treating it as especially urgent”.

The guidance underlines that proper respect should be given to representations based on religious belief including wording that “The Chief Coroner understands and is sensitive to the fact that some faith groups, particularly Jewish and Muslim, have religious and cultural wishes about treatment of a body and burial following a death. Coroners should pay appropriate respect to those wishes, within the framework of their legal duties and in the context of their other responsibilities.”

Guidance on workplace dress codes

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has published a guidance document, Dress codes and sex discrimination: what you need to know, for employers who set dress codes and employees and job applicants who may have to abide by them. Among its findings, the report notes that employers should be flexible and not set dress codes which prohibit religious symbols that do not interfere with an employee’s work; and that if an employer wants to implement a dress code or uniform policy, it must ensure that this does not directly or indirectly discriminate against employees with a particular religion or belief or no religion or belief. The guidance document can be downloaded from http://www.edf.org.uk/government-equalities-office-guidance-dress-codes-and-sex-discrimination-what-you-need-to-know/.

Manchester Arena terrorist attack and faith and inter faith responses

On the evening of 22nd May 22 people were killed and over 100 people injured in a terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena.

Manchester and Greater Manchester’s faith and inter initiatives have played a very significant part in the city’s response including in the vigils in Albert Square and St Ann’s Square.

Around the UK, many other faith and inter faith organisations have been amongst those who have responded through messages, statements, vigils, services, prayers and silences; and in some cases responding with offers of practical help. A list of responses by faith and inter faith bodies of which IFN is aware can be found at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/manchester-arena-attack-responses-by-faith-and-inter-faith-bodies.

On 23 May IFN’s Co-Chairs and the Moderators of IFN’s Faith Communities Forum issued the following statement in response to the bombing:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives or were injured in last night’s terrorist murders at the Manchester Arena, as they are with their families, all others affected and those responding with assistance. We deplore and condemn this wanton, brutal and cowardly taking of the lives of young and old. Let us stand together to oppose terrorism and the ideologies that promote it. Let us also uphold and strengthen the unity of our society and work to ensure that it is a positive and harmonious one where all children and young people can grow up safely and without fear. It is vital that we all – of every age and background – work to build bridges and positive relationships and to enable difficult issues to be addressed and worked on – always seeking to avoid the use of violence to resolve issues.

We know that each time a terrorist attack occurs, groups within society become the target of abuse or even attack because of terrorist actions which claim, or are perceived by some, as having a link to them. We must stand, likewise, against this. An attack on one is an attack on all. We remember at this time, in this context, particularly the many in the Greater Manchester area working for good relations.”

A copy of this statement is also on the IFN website at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/manchester-arena-attack-statement.

The Muslim community condemned repeatedly the atrocity and the actions of the attacker. Statements were issued by the British Muslim Forum (http://www.britishmuslimforum.co.uk/2017/05/23/manchester-attack-the-bmf-condemns-act-of-cowardice/), the Muslim Council of Britain (http://www.mcb.org.uk/manchester-attack-muslim-council-of-britain-statement), the Islamic Society of Britain (https://twitter.com/BritIslam/status/866950172177289216) and the British Muslim Scholars (https://www.facebook.com/1487320954821958/photos/a.1514903692063684.1073741829.1487320954821958/1774314242789293/?type=3&theater). A number of local Muslim groups also issued statements (http://www.mcb.org.uk/collation-of-responses-to-manchester-attack/) and a group of 30 imams gathered in St Ann’s Square (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-40076591).

A statement by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, can be found at

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-following-terrorist-attack-in-manchester-23-may-2017

The Department for Communities and Local Government issued advice, in the wake of the Manchester attack, for community leaders on managing tensions. A copy of this can be found online at: https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/advice-and-support-for-community-leaders-on-managing-tensions

Advice was also issued about safe giving to Manchester related appeals which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/generous-public-should-make-sure-donations-go-to-genuine-charities-supporting-the-victims-in-manchester-says-charity-regulator

The Daily Mail newspaper, with Carphone Warehouse, is running an appeal called Mobiles for Manchester. The appeal says: “The bulk of the money raised will go to support victims of the attack. But the Mail also believes that if the social dislocation which can lead to extremism is not tackled, the problem will never go away. So we aim to give some of the money to local inter-faith youth initiatives. Bishop Richard Atkinson and Jatinder Singh Birdi, co-chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, said: ‘Local inter-faith initiatives play a vital role in bringing people of different faith backgrounds together, tackling prejudice and hatred. Young people are a vital part of that.’ The Inter Faith Youth Trust, a registered charity which provides small grants to local voluntary organisations, will receive some of the money. Trust chairman Neil Martin said: ‘We help bring young people together through community projects so they realise how much they have in common.’”

People can drop off old mobile phones – whether working or not – at branches of Carphone Warehouse (https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/store-locator.html). Carphone Warehouse will donate all money raised from the donations to the Daily Mail appeal. Even a very old phone raises a £15 donation. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4546512/Daily-Mail-launches-Mobiles-Manchester-appeal.html

Westminster attack and faith and inter faith responses

On 22 March a terrorist attack took place on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament.

A number of faith and inter faith organisations issued statements or came together to hold vigils or ceremonies to remember all those affected by the attack and to show solidarity. A list of a number of these can be found at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/westminster-attacks-responses-by-faith-and-inter-faith-bodies. Many also took part in We Stand Together events on 29 March which were arranged with the lead of the Metropolitan Police.

On 23 March IFN’s Co-Chairs and the Moderators of IFN’s Faith Communities Forum issued the following statement in response to the terrorist attack in Westminster the previous day: “Yesterday’s attack at Westminster on police and members of the public exemplified the cowardly and destructive nature of the actions of terrorists. We hold in our prayers all whose lives have been lost or forever changed through the murderous acts of its perpetrator.

Terrorism is profoundly at odds with the values of our faith traditions and of the values at the heart of British society. We deplore and condemn it.

Attacks of this kind are designed to disrupt our society and to undermine the relationships within it. Let us resist this at all costs and stand together in unity.

Let us also watch out for the wellbeing of any groups who may be targeted because of terrorist actions which claim, or are perceived by some, as having a link to them. There is no place for prejudice and hatred of that kind and where it is found, let us redouble efforts to combat it.”

 Rizwan Ahmed from Bristol Muslim Cultural Society (BMCS) and Muslim Chaplain at Bristol University released this statement: *** Westminster Attack. 22nd March 2017 ***

As a nation most of us are feeling a sense of shock and sadness at the awful events that unfolded in Westminster today. Firstly our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and those affected. This is an absolutely disgusting attack on innocent people.

No sane human could justify such behaviour.  “Human” being a term loosely applied to the perpetrator here. Even animals don’t do this to each other. Today was an attack on all of us as a nation. I simply don’t have the words anymore to express the sadness that I feel whenever innocent lives are lost through evil misguided criminal behaviour justified by a warped sense of right and wrong. Be it here or any other place in the world. Or whoever the perpetrator is. Whether carried out by an individual, group, army or a nation.

While we are still awaiting further updates we can only speculate on the motives of the twisted mind or minds behind the attack. We should also acknowledge the bravery and professionalism of the Police and emergency services who handled the situation to stop it escalating into something even worse.

Let’s pray that Allah helps the victims and their families at this difficult time. Ameen.

Let’s pray that Allah brings the evil people behind such attacks here or anywhere in the world to justice swiftly. Ameen. Let’s pray that once again as a nation and continent we have the courage and resolve to stay united and stand together in the face of such abhorrent acts of evil. Ameen.

Rizwan Ahmed (BMCS & Muslim Chaplain Bristol University)

Looking After One Another: The Safety and Security of our Faith Communities

Looking after one another: the safety and security of our faith communities has been published by the Inter Faith Network for the UK in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, the National Fire Chiefs’ Council and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The document contains guidance on responding jointly to attacks on places of worship; working for calm at times of tension; and working to build on and strengthen existing good inter faith relations. It contains material about how and where to report hate incidents, cyber attacks, and actual or suspected terrorist activity; where to find information on strengthening the security of buildings; and where to find information about working to build – and strengthen – good inter faith relations locally. These practical pointers for responding in solidarity have particular resonance at the present time when there is a need to watch out for the wellbeing of any groups who may be targeted because of terrorist actions which claim, or are perceived by some, as having a link to them.

The document can be found at: https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/looking-after-one-another-the-safety-and-security-of-our-faith-communities-2017.

 European Court of Justice preliminary rulings on wearing of religious articles of faith

On 14 March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued two judgements concerning the wearing of religious articles of faith. The judgements were made in response to separate requests for preliminary rulings from the national courts of Belgium and France. References for preliminary rulings allow tribunals and courts within EU member states to refer questions to the Court of Justice about the interpretation of EU law or the validity of a European Union act. The ECJ does not decide the cases itself, but the referring court must dispose of the case in accordance with the ECJ’s decision, which also binds courts within other member states. The ECJ is an instrument of the European Union, and is distinct from the European Court of Human Rights, which is not.

Both cases involved women who were dismissed from their jobs for wearing a Muslim head scarf. The thrust of the ruling in the Belgian case was that workplace regulations which prohibit the wearing of visible signs of all political, philosophical or religious beliefs are not directly discriminatory as they treat all employees the same, noting that there was no evidence that the employer applied the rule differently to employees of a particular political, philosophical or religious belief. The ruling also noted that such regulations may constitute indirect discrimination if “the apparently neutral obligation it imposes results, in fact, in persons adhering to a particular religion or belief being put at a particular disadvantage.” Indirect discrimination may be lawful where it is considered an appropriate and necessary means of achieving a legitimate aim, “such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality.” The Belgian court will need to apply these tests when considering the case.

The French case differed in a number of respects, chiefly that the employee was dismissed because a customer of the employer complained that their account had been assigned to an employee who wore a head scarf, and it was unclear to the ECJ whether there was an internal rule which regulated the wearing of visible signs of all forms of political, philosophical or religious beliefs. It noted that if such a rule existed, then the same tests as in the Belgian case would need to be applied by the French court. The ruling also stated “the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the services of that employer provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement within the meaning of the directive.”

A copy of the ECJ press release about both rulings can be seen at http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-03/cp170030en.pdf it includes links to the full judgements.

A transcript of the Parliamentary question which took place in the UK Parliament following the ruling can be found at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-03-15c.408.10&s=speaker%3A10958.

EHRC letter to political parties

On 25 November 2016 the Chair and Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission published an open letter to all political parties in Westminster encouraging them to engage with the Commission and calling upon them to do more to heal divisions which have emerged following the EU referendum earlier this year and states “Politicians of all sides should be aware of the effect on national mood of their words and policies, even when they are not enacted.” The letter can be read at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/news/letter-all-political-parties-westminster

Digital marketing for Charities

A 12-step guide to digital marketing for charities, compiled by Flagship Consulting, which addresses the recommendations made by the Charity Commission last year that aimed to help charities keep pace with digital change. Access the guide here: http://flagshipconsulting.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Flagship-Consulting-Digital-Giving-12-Step-Guide-1.pdf

 Faith at the end of Life

Public Health England’s resource on ‘Faith at the end of Life’ aims to help frontline professionals and providers working in community settings and commissioners maintain a holistic approach to the people dying, caring or bereaved.

It provides information to help ensure that commissioning and delivery of services and practice takes account of spiritual needs of six faith groups in England and remains appropriate to the community setting in which they work. The resource can be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/upload

Race report: Healing a divided Britain

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published the biggest ever review into race equality in Britain across every aspect of people’s lives, including education, employment, housing, pay and living standards, health, criminal justice and participation. It reveals that while for certain people life has become fairer over the past five years, for others progress has stalled and for some– in particular young Black people – life on many fronts has got worse. The report can be found here: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/race-report-healing-divided-britain

 

 Awareness of Forced Marriage

Recognise the signs of forced marriages. It is estimated that approximately 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages of British citizens take place every year often resulting in devastating long term consequences for the victims. For more information download this resource pack and raise awareness across your organisation: http://www.safeguardingchildrenea.co.uk/resources/awareness-of-forced-marriage-resource-pack/

 

Faith and Domestic Abuse: Recommendations for faith leaders

Faith Action has launched a publication which is a collection of recommendations for faith leaders on how to deal with domestic abuse in their communities, aimed at starting an oft-neglected but vital conversation. The recommendations included in the publication come from a series of interviews held with faith leaders, faith-based organisations and domestic abuse organisations. A copy of the Recommendations can be downloaded from http://www.faithaction.net/portal/faith-and-health/our-projects/domestic-abuse/.