CHAPTER 1: I wouldn’t say discrimination exactly, but…
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It’s important to note that both of our surveys and our qualitative examples were gathered in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). We know from talking to people who have studied religious freedom in the USA, for example, that the word ‘discrimination’ means different things on each side of the Atlantic.


The survey element of our research asked people about their experiences of being on the receiving end of harassment, bullying and discrimination or of observing it happen to others. We didn’t define further what we meant by that.


We recognise that self-defining a matter as sensitive as this will inevitably stimulate a range of responses, and that cultural or personal interpretations of terms will vary. For example, in our informal discussions with workplace diversity experts in the USA, we heard that the word ‘discrimination’ can be used conversationally to mean casual comments or awkward moments. We can’t be certain that this is what our respondents meant by the term because we didn’t ask them to clarify and we didn’t describe the term for them.


In our insights gathering conversations, we were usually told of similar examples of being overlooked informally or excluded socially by people who didn’t describe those situations as discrimination but instead reserved the term for legally prohibited activities which can be addressed through a formal process using an organisation’s grievance procedure or, if that does not resolve the issue, in open court. These might include verbal abuse, physical or sexual assault, or being overlooked for specific recruitment or promotion opportunities.


Almost one in five (17%) British workers say they have seen someone else experience at least one form of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace.'


Q: In your workplace or while carrying out duties relating to your current or former employment, have you ever experienced someone else being bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of their...?

NET: Any 17%
Age 7%
Sex (as in gender) 7%
Race 6%
Sexual orientation 4%
Religion and belief 3%
Disability 2%
Gender reassignment 1%
None of the above 77%
Don’t know 6%
Base: All workers (n=984)


Workers are most likely to say they have witnessed someone else experiencing age or gender related discrimination (both 7%). Three percent of British workers say they have seen someone else experience at least bullying, harassment or discrimination because of their religion.


A similar proportion of workers (16%) claim to have experienced discrimination in the workplace themselves.


Q: In your workplace or while carrying out duties relating to your employment, do you consider that you have personally ever been discriminated against because of your...?

Yes No Don’t know
NET: Any 16% 82% 2%
Age 9% 87% 4%
Sex (as in gender) 7% 89% 4%
Race 4% 93% 3%
Religion and belief 3% 94% 3%
Sexual orientation 2% 96% 3%
Disability 2% 94% 3%
Gender reassignment 1% 96% 3%
Base: All workers (n=984)


Only three percent of British workers say they have personally been discriminated against in the workplace because of their religion. As a proportion of the total workforce in 2015, this is equivalent to around one million people.


Yet in our consultative conversations with people working in the UK we heard stories of lower level exclusion that didn’t quite feel harsh enough for the recipient to want to report it.


Examples of people feeling uncomfortable at work because of their religion or belief include comments like:

‘I was having training about coping with extremely stressful situations and, in the discussion, didn’t feel able to say that I usually pray at times like that. I thought it might make people feel uncomfortable.’

‘In our office, everyone is very respectful of minorities and would never be disparaging about women or people with disabilities, but when it comes to religion it’s fair game. People can be very insulting, especially when they express it through humour.’

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