EHRC Religion or Belief Work: Reflections on the Policy Dimension


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AHRC Workshop, 12 July 2013, University of Birmingham

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  • Thank the AHRC and Paul Weller for allowing me to contribute to important workshop I work as Research Manager for EHRC, based in Manchester and lead research work on religion or belief. Work with Karen Jochelson, Director of Employment and Economy; Karen is overall lead on religion or belief and I work 2 days a week in her team in a policy role. Thus, on religion or belief issues, I have a dual research and policy role.
  • Begin by brief description of EHRC statutory remit on religion or belief and outline of legal, policy and research activities to set context for work Summary of EHRC research on religion or belief work focusing on AHRC projects Three research studies on religion or belief carried out under AHRC aegis – two by Linda Woodhead and one by Paul Weller; discuss these studies briefly including the ways the research was disseminated and have been used to date. Look at recent and ongoing policy work which draws on AHRC research Concluding remarks
  • Responsible for 7 equality strands (also age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, transgender) + pregnancy and maternity Direct legal assistance to an individual or apply to courts to intervene (S28 and S30 of Equality Act 2006); Direct interventions rare: funded and led Hall and Preddy case and recent Black and Morgan case (same-sex couples refused hotel rooms in Cornwall and Berkshire); Expert interventions in Johns (foster carers); Catholic Care (adoption agency restricting services to heterosexual couples); JFS (admission to Jewish school); Ghai (Hindu seeking open air funeral pyre); EHRC interventions sometimes criticised; Submission to Strasbourg in joint Eweida, Chaplin, Ladele and McFarlane case, following informal consultation EHRC legal interventions on religion or belief concerned with both equality and human rights law; S28 of Equality Act: EHRC can assist an individual who is, or may become, a party to legal proceedings involving equality legislation. Can provide legal advice, legal representation, facilities for the settlement of disputes or any other form of assistance. Legal representation, where agreed, may be undertaken either "in-house" (by our own Legal Directorate staff) or "out-house" (by external lawyers funded by the Commission); S30 of Equality Act: The Commission may apply to become a party to legal proceedings involving equality or human rights issues - typically to advise the court on matters within its expertise. Covers domestic courts and ECtHR, but not European Court of Justice. Decisions based on Strategic Litigation Policy. Legal publications include the Human Rights Review 2012: reviews interpretation of Article 9 in domestic courts; Equinet study of equality law in practice focuses on religion and belief in Europe (2011). Specialist Guidance on Sikh articles of faith in public spaces (2011); Guidance on legal interventions following Strasbourg judgment (2013). Policy work: becoming more prevalent; recent dialogue events (say more on later). Guidance for employers on recognising and managing religion or belief following Strasbourg judgment (2013); draws on academic and stakeholder views, a peer review not formal consultation; Religion or Belief Network consists of academics working on religion or belief across a range of disciplines, stakeholders, government officials and others. Periodically sent information about the work of the EHRC and other Network members on religion or belief issues. Database newsletters sent out in March, June, September and December – c.70% active members are academics or researchers
  • Donald (2012) an exploration of equality and human rights in relation to religion or belief through: the state of the law in relation to equality, human rights and religion or belief and different groups; responses to the law; approaches to achieving freedom of religion or belief and preventing discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the workplace and in public services; situations where interests conflict (or are perceived to conflict) between the different equality strands or different human rights; principles or approaches that might pre-empt or resolve dilemmas or disputes relating to religion or belief; and equality or human rights concerns that arise in relation to the role of religion or belief groups in the formation of law and public policy. Record number of 21 tenders. Budget c. £40,000 AHRC/ESRC £12.3 million programme – 70 projects. Woodhead also organises high-profile Westminster Faith Debates, co-funded by AHRC. All leading figures in area Perfect: analyses the most recent available statistical data from a variety of national sources to examine issues relating to religion or belief. Covers religious affiliation in Great Britain and in England, Scotland and Wales; belonging to a religion; religious practice and attendance; belief in God; discrimination and prejudice on grounds of religion or belief, covering both perceptions and experiences; and gender and church leadership positions. Describes key sources. Integration in Workplace (Sue Bond et al, 2009): examines recruitment, promotion and advancement at work on age, SO and RoB. Based on 8 “good practice” case studies in England, Scotland and Wales. Good practice in workplace less well developed on RoB than other strands – especially gender, age and disability. Examples included producing booklets on insights into religions; calendars of religious festivals; internal organisational faith networks; flexibility in time off work; policies to challenge discrimination; consultation of staff about how RoB should be regarded. Pay gaps across equality strands (Metcalf, 2009): reviews (very limited) research on pay gaps by religion (not belief). Evidence quite old: shows adverse pay gap for Muslim men and probably Sikhs – pay advantage for Jews. Women of all religions had pay gaps relative to Christian men – highest for Sikh women and Muslim women. Suggests areas of future research including impact of different employment patterns by RoB on pay gaps and qualitative research to assess discrimination. Triennial Review – extensive analysis by main religious groups. Covers life, legal security, physical security, health, employment, education, standard of living, care and support, power and voice. Muslims experience worse health than average; Muslim women least likely to have qualifications or a degree and low employment rates; Jewish men in employment particularly likely to managers or professions; non-Christians much more likely to be attacked or harassed than Christians. Data on belief limited to “no religion” category for some topics
  • Competitive tendering exercise (2 proposals) – originally entitled Seminars on Religion and Civic Life Woodhead and Catto: covers definitions and principles; religious equality and discrimination; religion and the law; religion and good relations; religious understanding and 'literacy'; national differences (England, Scotland and Wales). Implications cover measuring and monitoring discrimination; new legislation on religion and belief; non-legal means of dealing with disputes; the representation of religion; understanding religion; and religion and good relations. Very little expertise on religion or belief inherited by EHRC in 2007 – no prior EOC/DRC work. Some CRE work, but most of those involved did not join EHRC 25-30 people at each seminar – held in London, Lancaster and Glasgow; project cost £40,000. Much easier fo EHRC that could benefit from university organisational resources and administrative skills Seminar in Manchester. Other speakers: Woodhead and Voas – c.20 people at seminar Total cost of event and follow-up reports c. £5,000
  • Woodhead was commissioned as unique supplier as only person able to draw on Programme work in this way. Short questionnaire devised by Woodhead with Perfect assistance and sent out by both Woodhead: annotated survey of recent research carried out on the Religion and Society Programme and by members of the EHRC Religion or Belief Network. 6 broad themes: contemporary religious identities and beliefs; religious discrimination and prejudice; religion, discrimination and law; state and religion; religion, social cohesion and good relations; and EU research programmes and general resources. Discusses some of the emerging risks and imperatives around research in this area. Woodhead report summarises recent research on contemporary religious identities and beliefs; religious discrimination and prejudice; religion, discrimination and law; state and religion; religion, social cohesion and good relations; and EU research programmes and general resources Small-scale project
  • Weller et al research on religious discrimination in England and Wales cited in Woodhead and Catto; findings of study outlined in Feb 2010 survey Weller was commissioned as unique supplier as only person able to draw on draw on past and for future programme of work on religious discrimination Selective analysis of information supplied by Woodhead. Weller examines nature of religious discrimination; trends over time differences between England, Scotland and Wales; Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims Article in Sunday Telegraph on 19 June precedes publication of press release on 20 June; controversial views. Disappointingly brief reference only in article to Weller report Report also examine gaps in the research and statistical evidence and outlines proposals to reduce these. Some of the issues outlined taken up in Donald study for EHRC – for example Weller discusses concerns amongst some Christians about potential discrimination against Christians and Donald examines Christian marginalisation debate more fully
  • Newsletter item includes description of piece and link to availability on website Statistical briefing by Perfect, published Feb 2011, includes a section on discrimination and prejudice on grounds of religion or belief – at suggestion of Weller, draws on Eurobarometer data by TNS Opinion and Social; Weller report includes evidence from Perfect briefing, e.g. from Eurobarometer and Citizenship Survey Comments on statistical briefing from several contributors to AHRC programme – Woodhead, Catto, Voas, McAndrew Recent inquiry about antisemitism; response draws extensively on Weller report
  • Have copies of guidance documents if anyone wishes them. Short good practice guide aims to help employers understand how to comply with judgment when recognising and managing expression of religion or belief in the workplace. Discusses how an employer will know if a religion or belief is genuine; what kind of religion or belief requests an employer will need to consider and what steps they will need to take; what questions they should ask to ensure their approach to a request is justified; whether employees have a right to promote their particular religion or belief when at work; and whether employees can refrain from work duties. Includes examples. Religion or belief requests: covers manifestation of belief, e.g. clothing, jewellery, religious symbols, appearance; time off work; adaptation of work duties; opting out of work duties; promotion of religion or belief in the workplace Weller and others provide detailed comments on draft guidance documents and considerably improve final version Goldsmiths dialogue events (2012-13) cover religion and belief in the public sphere; media and religion or belief; religious diversity in the workplace and service delivery; balancing competing interests; Final event drew up actions for employers, trade unions, religion or belief bodies, EHRC and government; includes religious and secular bodies, employers, trade unions, advice and equality bodies, government officials and academics; published on Goldsmiths website; feed into 2013-14 work. Includes brief description of Weller report for EHRC and sundry references to other Weller work in area Dinham involved in various AHRC events. Starting-point for project was review of EHRC work on religion or belief
  • Programme of work for 2013-14 being drawn up; closer links with religion or belief stakeholders and with employers; short guidance on key topics, e.g. dress codes, flexible working, time off work, conscientious objection; aimed at employers/trade unions, but relevant to religion or belief groups and individuals; Exploring opportunities for key advisory groups and with legal bodies to train employers; Seminar to raise profile of religion or belief internally; Probable work on caste discrimination – relevant to religion or belief, as well as race Caste work – has religion as well as race connotations – will draw on academic expertise Dissemination of Summary document and Policy Findings to Network members when available
  • EHRC Religion or Belief Work: Reflections on the Policy Dimension

    1. 1. EHRC religion or belief work: reflections on the policy dimension Dr David Perfect Research Manager Equality and Human Rights Commission
    2. 2. Outline of presentation • EHRC activities on religion or belief • EHRC research on religion on belief • AHRC religion or belief research: Linda Woodhead • AHRC religion or belief research: Paul Weller • Dissemination and follow-up work • Recent and ongoing policy work drawing on research • Conclusions
    3. 3. EHRC activities on religion or belief • EHRC statutory responsibility for religion or belief and other equality strands since 2007; National Human Rights Institution since 2009. No previous statutory body covers religion or belief • Interventions in legal cases and legal publications • Specialist research reports and statistical work • Policy work with stakeholders and publications • Religion or Belief Network (currently 613 members) • EHRC Research Database (currently 2,712 members) • Most Network/Database members academics or researchers, but others are policymakers and stakeholders; information regularly sent to members
    4. 4. EHRC research on religion or belief • Four commissioned research reports since 2009: Woodhead with Catto (2009); Woodhead (2011); Weller (2011); Donald (2012). All available on EHRC website • First three have strong links to AHRC research: - Professor Linda Woodhead was Director of AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme (2007-13) and both her projects for EHRC part of Programme work - Dr Rebecca Catto was Programme Research Associate - Professor Paul Weller research for EHRC part of initial work for larger AHRC research project • Other commissioned research, e.g. Bond et al (2009); in-house research and statistical reports, e.g. Perfect (2011)
    5. 5. AHRC research by Linda Woodhead: 1 • Jan 2009: Woodhead commissioned through competitive research tender to identify EHRC religion or belief priority areas and gaps in research evidence • EHRC collective knowledge of issues then very limited; academic expertise essential to help focus our work • 3 expert seminars bring together academics, practitioners, policymakers and EHRC staff to discuss key topics; seminars organised by Lancaster University • Dec 2009: report published. Disseminated in early 2010 via Database newsletter and Network bulletin • Feb 2010: Woodhead organises EHRC expert seminar on report (speakers include Weller)
    6. 6. AHRC research by Linda Woodhead: 2 • 2010: Woodhead commissioned to examine recent research on religion, discrimination and good relations as part of AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme • Methodology includes review of projects within Programme and survey of members of the EHRC’s Religion or Belief Network • Effective methodological approach provides useful evidence quickly and cheaply • May 2011: report published by Lancaster University on EHRC’s behalf. Includes brief summaries of research studies and publication details to widen our knowledge of relevant research on this issue
    7. 7. AHRC research by Paul Weller • 2010: Weller commissioned to examine nature of religious discrimination between 2000 and 2010 • Builds on earlier work for EHRC and forms initial component of larger 2010-13 AHRC project • Early access to Woodhead report facilitated by EHRC to allow evidence to be discussed in Weller as well • June 2011: research report published. Press coverage focuses on interview with then EHRC Chair, Trevor Phillips, rather than key findings • Report examines gaps in research and statistical evidence and outlines proposals to reduce these
    8. 8. Dissemination and follow-up work • June 2011: dissemination of Weller and Woodhead research via Religion or Belief Network newsletter • June 2011: Research Database newsletter highlights religion or belief work; summarises both reports. Religion or belief Reading List also published • Weller and Woodhead studies extensively cited in EHRC report on religion or belief, equality and human rights in England and Wales (Donald, 2012) • Perfect (2011): EHRC statistical briefing on religion or belief draws on sources on discrimination suggested by Weller; Weller (2011) includes data from EHRC briefing • Weller report used to address internal inquiries
    9. 9. Recent policy work • Feb 2013: EHRC publishes two guidance documents on recent European Court of Human Rights judgment about religious rights in the workplace. One provides legal explanation; the other a guide for employers • Draft documents circulated to Weller, Woodhead and other academics (as well as stakeholders); comments considerably strengthen final documents • Feb-Apr 2013: Dialogue events organised by Goldsmiths for EHRC to debate key religion or belief issues; project led by Professor Adam Dinham. Attended by range of stakeholders and key academic input into process as speakers, facilitators and participants
    10. 10. Ongoing policy work • 2013-14 EHRC programme of work on religion or belief underway. Includes discussions with range of religion or belief stakeholders and production of guidance documents aimed at employers, trade unions and religion or belief stakeholders • Draft guidance documents will be circulated to selected academic experts and stakeholders for comment • Academic input into proposed associated work on caste • New Weller report and book findings will be disseminated to Religion or Belief Network members
    11. 11. Conclusions • Close links with academic experts an essential aspect of EHRC work on religion or belief. EHRC draws on: a) research reports by experts b) academic contributions to stakeholder events c) comments on draft policy documents d) provision of informal advice and suggestions by key contacts • Religion or Belief Network allows mutually beneficial exchange of research information; Research Database newsletters ensure dissemination of EHRC research to wider research and policy communities • Good academic and policy collaboration critical to better evidence-based policy and better research!
    12. 12. Contact details • Dr David Perfect/Religion or Belief Network • EHRC research • Religion or belief guidance documents guidance/your-rights/religion-and-belief • Goldsmiths dialogue events reports dialogues