Belief and unbelief at work


Venue: Lumen Rooms (Community Space 1), Lumen URC, 88 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RS


Led by: Mark Argent and Coreene Archer

Religious participation has been decreasing for at least a century, to the point that many now see it as irrelevant. As the world has changed, the place of belief systems within occupational systems is increasingly being called into question.

The move to make religion or belief a protected characteristic under discrimination law has made it even harder for faith-based conversations to take place. As the protection covers both belief and a lack of belief, an unwelcome attempt to persuade a colleague to change their belief could constitute harassment, while expressions of a contrary belief could be evidence of a discriminatory mindset.

Many employers approach these issues cautiously, offering private facilities so that prayer or worship can be conducted discretely, and allowing paid holiday or unpaid leave to be used for observance of religious festivals. Meanwhile, manifestations of belief such as jewellery, headwear, facial hair and facial coverings are increasingly being fought over in the tribunals, as some workplace policies seek to limit all non-essential forms of religious expression. These measures further contribute to the idea of the workplace as a secular space, in which a seminal aspect of some people’s lives must be kept hidden. This is complicated by the way in which belief or unbelief shapes personal values and their orientation to the values of the organisation.

When something cannot be discussed, organisational consultants may question what is going on in the silence, and what might be being displaced onto it. This event, led by Mark Argent and Coreene Archer, takes a neutral stance in exploring the dilemmas and difficulties arising when differing beliefs, rights and freedoms come into contact, and conflict, with one another.

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OPUS Associate or Member, OPUS Student Member, Non-member

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