Religion in the Workplace
Most people find it daunting to talk about their faith at work. This can not only be an awkward conversation but can now also be a risky one.
More and more average Australians are coming under attack at work for their faith, some even losing their jobs because they have been honest about what they believe.
People shouldn’t be silent about what matters to them most, but they should be aware of the risks associated with speaking up in the modern workplace.
Here are some general answers to common questions about freedom of speech, religion and conscience at work.
As a general rule, you should be able to freely discuss your religious beliefs with your colleagues in the workplace as part of normal water-cooler conversation. Remember though, your employer has the right to give lawful and reasonable directions about your conduct in the workplace – after all, your primary responsibility at work is to do your work and to provide reasonable services to your employer. There are general protections under the Fair Work Act for people of faith in the workplace. These protections vary depending on which State or Territory you live in Australia, as does protections under Anti-Discrimination legislation. If you think your religious rights have been breached in the workplace then you should contact a lawyer for specific legal advice.
You should be able to give a reasonable and polite response to a work colleague about what it is that you believe when asked. However, work e-mail and other internal written modes of communication should never be used for personal correspondence, including about faith and religion. It is generally a good idea to be discerning about the context of a conversation and why the person is asking the question – Christian and other conservative religious views on life, sexuality and identity are controversial and care should be taken in entering into conversation about these topics.
This will depend on your workplace code of conduct and the kind of work that you do. In general, you should be able to express your own opinions and belief freely in your own time on social media. However, certain jobs and especially regulated professions, have rules and codes of conduct that can apply to how you use social media outside the office. Make sure you are aware of what your employer expects of you. If you do face disciplinary action, seek advice from a lawyer to guide you through the process.
Employers are free to adopt and promote social positions and causes in the workplace, but employees who feel uncomfortable should be free to bring the matter up with their employer. An employee should never be forced to affirm or celebrate a social cause or position that is inconsistent with their faith. Always take contemporaneous written notes when you meet with your employer about these issues. If your employer agrees to something or gives you a direction, follow it up and ask for it in writing.
DISCLAIMER: The answers provided in this FAQ are a general guide only and do not constitute legal advice. For specific legal advice contact a lawyer.
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