9 January, 2015
What does the law say to churches about equality and diversity?
For more than 2000 years the Christian church has proclaimed a message about human freedom, dignity and equality. Its message is based on the belief that everyone is equal, but not everyone is the same – equality and diversity.
Equality and diversity rights are now protected in law, primarily by the Equality Act 2010. The law is complex and the Equality Act 2010 provides protection for a range of different characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex; and, sexual orientation.
This law speaks to churches as employers, membership organisations, and as service providers, subject to certain exceptions and exemptions. There is a risk that if a church fails to understand and observe the message of equality law, they could face legal claims such as from unsuccessful job applicants, current or former employees, and those who use or seek to use their services.
Compliance with equality law is also a matter of Charity regulation.
Wellers Law Group LLP provides specialist advice to churches and Christian charities on employment and equality law. They recommend that every Church and charity takes the following steps:
- Review: equality policies and procedures should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they are up-to-date, and comply with the law.
- Implement: Equality policies and procedures need to be properly implemented if they are to be effective. This involves providing information, guidance and training to church leaders and volunteers about equality rights, policies and procedures.
- Seek: Equality rights can be complex. Where a legal question or issue arises it is advisable to promptly seek specialist advice, so that the church or charity can properly understand its legal position and the steps that it should take.
Wellers Law Group LLP provides a review service for churches and charities, and their employment and equality law department can provide up to date equality policies and procedures, as well as provide training, and specialist legal advice in this complex and fast changing area of law.