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Managing workplace religious expression within the legal constraints

Andrew Hambler (University of Wolverhampton Business School, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 4 April 2016




The purpose of this paper is to consider in broad terms how employers may respond to different forms of religious expression by employees in the workplace, within the discretion afforded to them by law.


Through a discussion of relevant legislation and case law, and a review of relevant literature, it seeks to identify the legal constraints within which employers must operate when determining policy and practice in this area and gives consideration to how they should respond.


It is observed that employers enjoy considerable freedom either to impose restrictions or to encourage religious expression.


The paper considers some of the over-arching principled arguments both for and against encouraging religious freedom at work, whilst concluding that support for religious expression may be the better option, not least for the positive benefits for employee well-being, commitment and engagement which, it is argued, may result.



This paper is based, in part, on a short paper submitted to a competition organised by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in 2014 and subsequently published in CMI, Winning Ideas: the Management Articles of the Year (February 2015), pp. 14-19. Material from that paper is reproduced here with the kind agreement of the CMI. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Conference in Tel Aviv (6-8 July 2015). My thanks to fellow delegates for their helpful comments.


Hambler, A. (2016), "Managing workplace religious expression within the legal constraints", Employee Relations, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 406-419.



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