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M119 Religion and belief

1. Security protective marking

1.1. Not protectively marked.

2. Summary of changes

2.1. The following changes have been made to this policy on 26 October 2012:


    • Section 7.1.4 – provision of quiet rooms has been updated
    • Section 8.1 – advice sought has been updated
    • Section 8.3 – Role of the Diversity Support Team has been revised. 


      2.2. This policy is scheduled for review in October 2014.

3. Application

3.1. This policy applies to all employees and staff of Kent Police.


4. Purpose

4.1. This policy aims to inform and educate the force to ensure that every effort is made to accommodate the religion and belief needs of its officers and staff. Where this cannot be accommodated it will be the responsibility of line managers to explain the reasons.

5. Introduction

5.1. Kent Police is an inclusive and consultative organisation with a workforce that reflects the population of Kent and a culture that respects and celebrates all aspects of diversity. We want to meet the needs of everyone living, working and visiting Kent by providing an accessible and responsive service. We also want to provide a service, and working environment, that is free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, or victimisation.

5.2  Unfair discrimination, inappropriate behaviour or insensitivity on the grounds of religious belief is totally unacceptable. Where staff consider that they have been treated unfairly on these grounds, this should be reported in the first instance to their line manager. If the matter is not resolved it can be dealt with by use of the grievance procedure or by a report to the Professional Standards Department (PSD).

5.3  Whilst operational requirements should always take precedence, a flexible approach should be encouraged to allow the needs of each individual’s religion or beliefs to be accommodated.

5.4  The provisions of the Equality Act 2010 make it unlawful to:

    • Discriminate directly against anyone. That is, to treat them less favourably than others because of their religion or belief;
    • Discriminate indirectly against anyone. That is, to apply a criterion, provision or practice which disadvantages people of a particular religion or belief unless it can be objectively justified;
    • Subject someone to harassment. Harassment is unwanted conduct that violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment having regard to all the circumstances and the perception of the victim;
    • Victimise someone because they have made or intend to make a complaint or allegation or have given or intend to give evidence in relation to a complaint of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief;
    • Discriminate or harass someone in certain circumstances after the working relationship has ended;

5.5  This policy will assist Kent Police in adhering to these regulations.

5.6  Importantly it will provide guidance on good employment practices to enable staff to have their religion and belief recognised and protected in the workplace and to ensure that they are not subject to discrimination, either directly or indirectly.

5.7  Additionally the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful (subject to certain exemptions) to discriminate, either directly or indirectly on the grounds of religion or belief in the following areas:

    • The provision of goods, facilities and services,
    • The disposal and management of premises,
    • Education,
    • The exercise of public functions.

    However, exceptions may be made in very limited circumstances if there is a genuine occupational requirement for the worker to be of a particular religion or belief in order to do the job or to comply with the religious or belief ethos of the organisation.


    5.8  Standards of Professional Behaviour (SPB). 

    5.8.1. SPB 2: Authority, Respect and Courtesy. In exercising their duties, police officers never abuse their authority or the powers entrusted to them. Police officers are well placed to protect individuals and groups within society. They have been given important powers and responsibilities due to the complex and difficult situations they deal with. The public have the right to expect that such powers are used professionally, impartially and with integrity, irrespective of an individual’s status.

    5.8.2.  Police officers, recognise that some individuals who come into contact with the police, such as victims, witnesses or suspects, may be vulnerable and therefore may require additional support and assistance.

    5.8.3.  Police officers use appropriate language and behaviour in their dealings with their colleagues and the public. They do not use any language or behave in a way that is offensive or is likely to cause offence.

    5.8.4. SPB 3: Equality and diversity. Police officers act with fairness and impartiality. They do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.

    5.8.5.  Police officers carry out their duties with fairness and impartiality and in accordance with current equality legislation. In protecting others’ human rights, they act in accordance with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    5.8.6.  Police officers need to retain the confidence of all communities and therefore respect all individuals and their traditions, beliefs and lifestyles provided that such are compatible with the rule of law. In particular police officers do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly when exercising any of their duties, discretion or authority.

    5.8.7.  Police officers pay due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different groups.

    5.8.8.  Police managers have a particular responsibility to support the promotion of equality and by their actions to set a positive example.

    5.8.9.  Different treatment of individuals, which has an objective justification, may not amount to discrimination.


    6. Definition of religion or belief 

    6.1.  Religion or belief is defined as being any religion, religious belief of similar philosophical belief.

    6.2.  It will be for the Employment Tribunals and other Courts to decide whether particular circumstances are covered by the regulations. In most applications to a tribunal it will be clear what is or is not a religion or a similar belief. They may consider a number of factors when deciding what is a religion or similar belief such as collective worship, a clear belief system, and a profound belief affecting the way of life or view of the world. Employers should be aware that these regulations extend beyond the better-known religions and faiths to include beliefs such as Paganism and Humanism.


    7. Working practices 

    7.1. Prayer 


    7.1.1. The force acknowledges that some religions and beliefs have a requirement for their members to pray or meditate on a regular basis.

    7.1.2.  Staff will be allowed time within the working day to practice their faith. However, this will not be treated as duty time, and must be made up at the beginning or end of the shift, or by other local arrangements. Flexible arrangements, if possible, should be put in place, which may include the rescheduling of rest breaks. Where a member of staff takes time off during their normal working time this must be recorded using the duty recording system.

    7.1.3.  Consideration may be given to allow staff to leave their place of work to attend a religious event. This will not be in duty time and should be recorded through the relevant time keeping system. Line Managers will attempt to reschedule rest days or grant leave to enable staff to attend religious festivals, where operational exigencies permit. Staff should submit such a request giving reasonable notice in order to allow sufficient arrangements to be made.

    7.1.4.  Kent Police has identify quiet and private places within each of the three policing divisions, which can be used by staff and visitors for varying purposes including observations of faith (see policy B26 quiet rooms). Similar facilities are provided within Headquarters, Training School, Force Control Room, Coldharbour and Longport.  Whilst it may not be able to provide this facility as a permanent arrangement, supervisors should try to provide suitable accommodation where possible.

    7.2.  Dress

    7.2.1.  Kent Police, in line with policy M99 Uniform and Appearance and M99C Standards of Dress for Non-Uniformed Police Officers will ensure that reasonable arrangements are made to ensure items of uniform are available to meet the religious and cultural needs of all staff.

    7.2.2.  Where police officers and staff are deployed in non-uniform roles, traditional costume may be worn in the workplace. When jewellery has a religious or cultural significance this can be permitted provided there is no unacceptable risk to health and safety and it does not undermine a professional image being portrayed to the public. For further guidance reference should be made to policy M99 Uniform and Appearance, and policy M99C Standards Of Dress for Non-uniformed Police Staff Employees.

    7.3.  Diet

    7.3.1.  Some religious groups have particular dietary requirements. Kent Police will make reasonable arrangements with its catering suppliers to accommodate these needs as far as possible, provided a request is made in advance.

    7.3.2.  Several faiths advocate fasting, where food and water may be strictly forbidden for several hours. This should be discussed with the individual and, where appropriate, possible shift changes should be made to allow working hours and breaks to coincide with the time the fast is broken.

    7.4.  Bank Holidays as religiously observed

    7.4.1.  Kent Police allows for eight bank holidays, of which three relate specifically to the Christian calendar. These are Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas day. However, the force recognises that officers and staff will have different faiths.

    7.4.2.  Police officers and staff may request to work on the three bank holidays related to the Christian calendar in order to take the time off on their own personal religious festivals. This request will then be considered against the operational needs of the force and available funding provided to support policing services on that particular day.

    7.4.3.  Police officers and staff should submit such requests by written notification to their line manager providing reasonable notice to consider the request and enable alternative arrangements to be made.

    7.4.4.  Risk assessments should be conducted where a member of staff chooses to reschedule a bank holiday to an alternative religious festival to ensure they are not placed in a situation of lone working.

    7.5.  On-call rotas

    7.5.1.  Some officers may need to be called into work from home to address particular operational situations. Where this occurs officers and staff may be held on a rota to be ‘on-call’. Further information is contained in force policy L124 On-Call Police Officers.

    7.5.2.  However, it is noted that certain officers may wish to protect their ability to observe religious beliefs on particular dates. In view of this the officer should raise this issue at the time the on call rota is formulated and in consultation with their line manager as detailed at 7.2 of this policy. Wherever possible Kent Police will seek to support the officer’s request and in turn the officer should adopt a flexible approach in line with the needs of the service.

    7.5.3.  Short notice placements to cover emergency on call requirements should be, if possible, avoided. However, if they are operationally necessary, they should be undertaken in consultation with the selected officer to ensure that wherever possible it does not prevent their ability to attend or observe a particular religious event.

    7.6.  Offensive language

    7.6.1.  Certain words, phrases, or types of humour may cause significant offence to colleagues of different religions and beliefs. Blasphemous words or acts will not be tolerated and effort should be made by supervisors to resolve the matter immediately under the provision of the grievance procedure contained in policy L99 Grievance Resolution.

    7.6.2. More serious or repeated incidents may constitute offences of harassment under the Equality Act 2010. When this occurs guidance should be sort from the Professional Standards Department as to the course of action to be taken.


    8. Roles and responsibilities of Line Managers

    8.1.  Line Managers should:

      • Make sure they are informed about the different cultural and religious needs of all of their staff, this may be through discussion during the annual Performance Development Review (PDR) process;
      • Fully consider and try to accommodate requests to observe their religious beliefs and customs;
      • Be sensitive to the particular needs of their own staff;
      • Explain the reasons why certain requests may not be able to be agreed (after thorough consideration);
      • Respect the sensitive nature of requests and where necessary take advice from the HR Officer, HR Partner, Diversity Support Team or relevant diversity staff support association on the most appropriate course of action;
      • Protect individuals from victimisation or any unfair treatment;
      • Deal promptly and effectively with cases where discrimination or victimisation is alleged to have occurred.

    8.2.  Staff should:

      • Make their manager aware of their particular needs;
      • Discuss their needs with the line manager, and adopt a flexible approach to meeting these in line with the needs of the service;
      • Ensure that any requests are submitted giving reasonable periods of notice.
      • Be flexible when considering alternative options.

    8.3.  Kent Police’s HR and Diversity Support Team can:

      • Advise on best practice across the force;
      • Identify areas of good practice or the need for change;
      • Provide advice and guidance to line managers on the correct implementation of this policy;
      • Provide contacts for line managers to the most appropriate staff support associations where necessary.

    9. Other Links

    9.1. Click here for Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) manual in relation to the articulation and expression of religious beliefs and their manifestation in the workplace.

    10. Retention and disposal

    10.1. Documents mentioned in the above policy will be retained for the period specified in the disposal schedule.


    11. Equality impact assessment

    11.1. This policy has been assessed with regards to its impact on equality. As a result of this assessment the policy has been graded as having a high potential impact.


    11.2. Attached is the latest equality impact assessment that forms part of the policy review process.

    Policy reference: M119 Religion and belief
    Policy owner: Head of HR
    Contact point: Policy Unit, 01622 653298
    Date last reviewed: 02 September 2010
    Document last saved: 07 November 2012