Iain Duncan Smith backs religious freedom at work

The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said that nobody should feel forced to decide between their faith and their job.

He made the comments at the launch of a guide by a national group representing British Jews, which aims to help employers understand their beliefs and the needs of Jewish staff.

His remarks echo those of The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart, who said that extending Sunday trading hours would put pressure on Christian workers to compromise their beliefs.


Mr Duncan Smith said the guide for employers could make “all the difference” if companies made “straightforward adjustments” to accommodate religious beliefs.

He said it would be a “travesty” to deny people the opportunity to work just because of their religion.

Nobody should feel they have to choose between their faith and their job.

Iain Duncan Smith MP

“Nobody should feel they have to choose between their faith and their job.


“And, certainly, nobody should be harassed, bullied, or intimidated at work because of their religion.

“Work should be a place of dignity and respect, an environment where the talents and skills of different groups are valued”, he added.

The 14-page guide, produced by The Board of Deputies of British Jews, includes information about observing Jewish festivals and kosher food.

Under pressure

Mr Duncan Smith said the guide will raise awareness of religious discrimination law for employers, and will be helpful not just for the Jewish community “but for the wider community in the UK”.

A consultation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission earlier this year found widespread discrimination against Christians in UK workplaces.

Christians of varying denominations reported being mocked for their beliefs at work, being passed over for promotion and feeling under pressure to keep their faith quiet at work.

Adequate protection

Other responses included parents saying their children are ridiculed for their faith at school, and business owners feeling “in turmoil” about behaving in ways that might breach equality laws.

Around half of those surveyed thought better legislation is needed to provide adequate protection for those with religious beliefs.

Last week, The Christian Institute criticised the Government for launching a snap consultation on allowing local authorities to extend Sunday shopping hours.

Serious issue

Director Colin Hart said: “This is a very serious issue affecting many Christians across the country, forcing them to choose between their faith and their job.

“Extended Sunday trading impacts not just shop assistants, but lorry drivers, cleaners, security guards and a whole host of other workers.

“Christian employees already receive inadequate protection from the current laws and these plans make things worse.

“There is no doubt that liberalising Sunday trading will lead to more pressure on people to work on Sundays, harming family life and further interfering with Sunday as a day of rest.”

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