Proselytising is where someone preaches about religion with a view to converting other people to that religion. The Court of Appeal has recently examined when a dismissal for proselytising can be fair.
Can you be dismissed for religious preaching at work?
In Kuteh v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, the employee was a nurse who started conversations about her Christian religion with pre-operative patients. Several complained. The employee was told by her manager to stop initiating conversations about religion, which she agreed to do. However, she continued regardless.
One patient said a pre-operative assessment where he was asked to pray and sing a Psalm was 'like a Monty Python skit'. The employee was dismissed for gross misconduct following an investigation and disciplinary hearing.
Religious Discrimination in the workplace
The Court of Appeal upheld the employee's dismissal. Although the right to freedom of religion under the European Convention on Human Rights gives individuals the right to express their religion freely, it does not legitimise improper proselytising. In this case, the employee had been warned about her behaviour, agreed to stop and yet continued.
Inappropriate preaching in the workplace
Some of the incidents, including the 'Monty Python' one, were clearly inappropriate. The employee had behaved inappropriately by improper proselytising and failing to follow a lawful instruction. She had been dismissed fairly because of her conduct.
The balance between allowing employees freedom to express their religion and protecting other people from improper proselytising can be a fine one. Employers should not shy away from addressing inappropriate behaviour but ensure managers follow disciplinary policies carefully.
Kate Fretten, Employment Partner says “The ruling represents a clear difference between an employee’s freedom to express their religion and improper behaviour. If you are ever unsure about how or whether to address such an issue, feel free to call.”
At Frettens, all of our solicitors offer a free initial meeting or chat on the phone to answer your questions. If this article raises issues for you or your business, please call us on 01202 499255 Kate or Paul will be happy to discuss it with you.