Here is a short guide to help you navigate the workplace as a Muslim in the UK.
5 Employment Rights Muslims Should Know About
The workplace can sometimes be a difficult place if you’re Muslim in the UK.
Research has shown that Islamophobia is rampant at work; for example, only 19.8% of Muslims aged 16-74 were in full-time employment, according to a 2017 study, compared to 34.9% of the overall population.
So we thought it would be useful to list five employment rights or issues that Muslim employees in the UK should be aware of, to help them navigate the workplace.
Unfortunately, Muslims face prejudice before even stepping foot in the office.
If you have a Muslim name, you’re less likely to be called for an interview. A test by the BBC revealed that an applicant with an English sounding name was three times more likely to be offered an interview than an applicant with a Muslim name.
This confirms findings from previous academic studies – for example, Muslim men are 76% less likely to be employed than their white Christian counterparts, according to research by the University of Bristol.
Many employers are using name-blind recruitment processes to try and remove this bias.
It is against the Equality Act in the UK to be treated unfairly or differently at work because of your religion or belief. This of course covers being treated unfairly because you’re Muslim.
The prohibition includes both direct discrimination, where someone treats you worse than someone else because of your religion, and indirect discrimination, where the same rule applies to everyone but it affects you worse than everyone else because of your religion.
If you think you have been discriminated against at work, then you might want to solve the problem informally first. You may also consider seeking proper legal advice to make a claim.
Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab face particular discrimination in the workplace.
However, employment law in the UK does not even necessarily respect the choice of women to wear the hijab at work.
A case heard in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2017 held that a workplace ban on the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign”, including headscarves, does not necessarily constitute direct discrimination.
This is not a blanket ban on the hijab, as it may only be prohibited under certain circumstances. However, this a worrying precedent to set for Muslim women in the workplace.
Abstaining from alcohol, for religious reasons or otherwise, can harm your chances at work. Many Muslims in the workplace express a feeling of exclusion at office socialising, which is often centred around alcohol. These are not simply unfounded anecdotes – a study found that drinkers earn 10-14 percent more than abstainers. The results of the study suggested that “social drinking leads to increased social capital”.
However, there is also evidence of the negative impact of drinking in the workplace. Up to 17 million working days are lost each year because of alcohol-related sickness, with a cost of £7.3 billion. It is estimated that the average organisation with 200 employees loses an estimated £37,634 per year to alcohol-related harm.
If you’re a full time employee in the UK, you’re entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year (although your contract may give you more). In other words, this amounts to 28 days’ of holiday. Employers are allowed to include the 8 UK bank holidays in this allowance, so that leaves you with at least 20 to play around with.
If you wanted to (and your employer agrees), that’s almost enough to book the whole of Ramadan off!
There is no right that guarantees employees time off to attend religious holidays, but it is good practice for employers to accommodate requests where possible.