“I contacted my union and wrote a letter informing the head teacher that I wished to be withdrawn from attending church and leading collective worship. I was told that if I do not attend church I will face disciplinary action.”
European law currently allows employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion only where there is a ‘genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement’, often shortened to ‘genuine occupational requirement’ or GOR. The Equality Act 2010 incorporates GOR into UK law, but there is an exemption (which many believe is unlawful) for religious schools that allows them to require teachers to share the faith of the school, regardless of their role.
In line with this exemption, voluntary aided schools, academies, free schools, and private schools with a religious character are able to religiously select all teaching staff, while voluntary controlled and foundation schools with a religious character can do likewise for up to a fifth of staff.
In addition to the hiring of teachers, a religious test may also be applied in their remuneration and promotion, and teachers can even be disciplined or dismissed for conduct which is ‘incompatible with the precepts’ of the school’s religion.
‘Faith ethos’ schools/academies may also use a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting senior staff, but only if there is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’. All ‘faith’ schools can also discriminate on the basis of faith where there is a genuine occupational requirement for non-teaching posts.