Stamping out sectarianism in the workplace

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The scourge of religious bigotry at work will be the focus of a major conference

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18th May 2015 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The scourge of religious bigotry at work will be the focus of the first conference of its kind.

Leading anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth has invited human resources and equalities staff from across the third, public and private sectors to the event.

It is being held in conjunction with City of Edinburgh Council which, in 2012, became the first local authority in Scotland to offer dedicated anti-sectarian training to staff.

Attendees will focus on how to recognise and respond to instances of sectarianism in the workplace, including an in depth look at the impact of employee’s social media activities.

In recent years there have been a number of high profile incidents regarding sectarian behaviour at work and research published last year by Edinburgh University highlighted that nearly two thirds of Scottish local authorities were perceived as paying only ”lip service” to protecting faith and belief at work.

We've seen examples where people have encountered sectarianism from the boardroom to the building site

Nil by Mouth launched its workplace training scheme in 2011 and since then more than 70 employers have participated in the programme.

Campaign director Dave Scott said: “Since launching our workplace programme we have received requests for advice and assistance from employers and staff, across a range of professions.

“We've seen examples where people have encountered sectarian attitudes right across the employment spectrum from the boardroom to the building site.

“People should be able to work free from fear or harassment and we want to use this conference as an opportunity to focus employers minds on how they can best tackle any issues they encounter on both a day to day and policy level.

“We have developed workshops and resources which help employers identify, discuss and deal with issues related to sectarianism. The message must go out loud and clear: sectarianism has no place in a 21st century workplace.”

Jonathan Rennie, employment partner at solicitors TLT, who will be speaking on social media at the conference said: "Social media has the allure of instant communication to a wide audience. 

"It can provide a platform for individuals to sound off and hit the send button when perhaps they would not be so comfortable to communicate the same message face to face. These keyboard warriors also have a tendency to assume that their comments are protected through freedom of speech or the right to privacy.

“But in fact the law has not yet kept up to speed with these new technologies and does not provide easy answers. 

“What we can say is that comments that are harassing and discriminatory may well have repercussions as the law develops, particularly when the comments are made in connection with work and employment."

The Beyond Religion and Belief conference takes place in at Edinburgh City Chambers on Tuesday, 2 June.