Charity faces tribunal over 'Christians-only' policy

A religious charity that introduced a policy of recruiting only Christians is facing a constructive dismissal case brought by a Christian former employee. The claimant will tell an employment tribunal in Abergele, north Wales, that the new policy made his management job increasingly difficult, eventually forcing him to resign.

Until 2004, Prospects, a Christian charity that helps people with learning difficulties, employed a number of non-Christian staff and volunteers, including some who had transferred to the organisation under the Tupe regulations, which protect the terms and conditions of transferring staff. But three years ago, the charity began to recruit only practising Christians for almost all posts, and told existing non-Christian staff that they were no longer eligible for promotion.

The former employee will tell the tribunal, which is expected to conclude on 12 December, that the policy made it difficult to recruit staff because he had to find candidates who were not only suitably qualified but also devout Christians, and that it made existing non-Christian staff feel devalued and unwelcome. He will also argue that working with the policy was detrimental to his mental and physical health.

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, which is paying the claimant’s legal fees, said: “The extent to which religious organisations are able to attach ‘Genuine Occupational Requirements’, as laid down in the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, to their jobs has not so far been tested – this is why this case is so important.

“We believe that, since that law came in, some religious organisations are actually discriminating more in their employment practices. This case appears to confirm that.”

A second claimant, who was denied promotion on the grounds of her non-religious beliefs, is being represented by her union.

A Prospects spokesman declined to comment on the tribunal.

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