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Friday, 20 March 2009

Time to down tools for a prayer

Yesterday on Pink Triangle we reported on how headteachers in British schools are having to devote time and energy to accommodating the superstitions injected into children’s minds by lunatic parents.

But it’s not only schools. The number of claims against employers in Britain on the grounds of superstition has rocketed, according to this story in the business section of Wales’s national daily, the Western Mail.

Employment lawyer Bethan Darwin of Cardiff is quoted as saying that many employers and employees are unaware of the law, the risks and where the boundaries lie.

“It’s a very sensitive area as we’re dealing with people’s firmly held beliefs,” she says.

“Firmly held beliefs”? Her point being?

“A lot of employers have had to change to comply with laws on other forms of discrimination but many are not aware of the religious discrimination dimension. It’s not necessarily the case that businesses are wilfully discriminating against people with religious views – often they don’t realise they are doing it.

“Many people don’t know much about religions other than their own – if they have one. For example, they may not realise that a Friday, when they may want to go out and celebrate after a successful week or when they may be turning the screw to get jobs finished, is also a significant day for Muslims who may have other priorities that day.”

Well, the answer is that, if you’re an employer and care about workplace harmony and efficiency, you might think twice about employing devout Muslims or others whose religion is likely to disrupt their work. Even if they agree at the outset not to kick up a fuss over their superstitions, such an agreement won’t be binding, so is it worth taking the risk? It shouldn’t be too hard to find ways to get around the law.

“They may not understand”, she continues, “that people of particular faiths feel they should not work on particular religious festival days. And even if they do accept that principle, how many employers actually know when those days are?”

More to the point, why the hell should they? It’s a place of work, not a sodding church or mosque. If people can’t agree to the hours they’ll be expected to work, then find a way of not employing them.

“We’ve become accustomed to the trappings of a multicultural society in Britain,” Darwin continues, “but the religious aspects of it, which are often at the heart of a culture, sometimes go unacknowledged.”

Sion Barry’s Western Mail article says that a survey published recently by the Chartered Management Institute showed that two-thirds of employers say they’re uncertain about the so-called “faith days” celebrated by their staff, and only one in three organisations has an explicit policy on religion and belief issues.

The paper continues, “Another factor contributing towards the increase in cases of religious discrimination is a widely held view that religion should not be brought into the workplace.”

Yes? And why should religion have a place at work? Well, because our shoddy politicians tell us it should, that’s why. Because they’re shit-scared of standing up to the religious lobby and saying, “Look, the workplace is a secular space, and we’re not going to allow religion to hamper workplace efficiency and harmony. We won’t support such disruption, and anyone who wishes to claim some sort of religious discrimination is on his or her own.”

A modern society should have grown up by now, and no longer be bound by what superstitious, infantile men in frocks of various styles and hues tell them. We stop believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, don’t we?

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