Handshake could land firms in court

Employers
should not necessarily expect all job interviewees to shake hands, as it could
cause offence and breach laws which come into force in December.

Insisting
on a handshake could leave the interviewer’s organisation open to a claim of
discrimination from devout followers of Judaism and Islam, according to a
report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The
report, Tackling Religious Discrimination: An introduction to the law, also
warns that serving alcohol without a non-alcoholic option at work functions
could invite a claim under the new European laws.

To
comply with EU law, the UK must introduce new legislation on religious
discrimination by 2 December 2003 to make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds
of religion or belief in the workplace.  

The
CIPD has published guidance to encourage employers to think about the
complexities and to help them recognise the need for action over the
forthcoming Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations.

Dianah
Worman, CIPD diversity adviser, said the implications of the new legislation
were enormous for employers, given that compensation awarded to an employee (or
would-be employee) who wins their case is unlimited.

One
particular problem facing employers is the potentially wide definition of what
amounts to a belief.

Worman
said: "The Government needs to produce guidance as quickly as possible to
address many of the concerns highlighted in the report.  With just six months left before the
regulations become law, the clock is ticking loudly for those organisations
wishing to prepare for such a major and far-reaching piece of legislation."

By
Ben willmott

www.cipd.org.uk

HR
factfile

The
report recommends:


Ask employees what their requirements are and, where appropriate, whether they
would like to set up an advisory body on religion and belief


Review all policies and procedures, from recruitment to appraisal and holiday
arrangements


Give managers diversity training and provide them with guidelines on how to
deal with workplace issues


Ensure dignity at work policies cover harassment on the grounds of religion or
belief and that these are drawn to the attention of all employees

Source:
CIPD

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