Last week’s Asher’s Bakers case sends a strong message to small business owners across the UK, that no matter what your religious beliefs are, you must by law keep these removed from your day to day operations – as far as possible.
In this case the bakery owner refused to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage theme, and this resulted in the business paying damages of £500 plus court costs to defendant Gareth Lee on grounds of discrimination (sexual orientation). This was not nearly as much as Bristol Crown court ordered B&B owners to pay out in 2011 against a similar discrimination case where B&B owners refused to accommodate a gay couple based on their sexual orientation and the business owner’s religious beliefs.
This latest case is further proof to remind business owners who have strong personal beliefs that may conflict with modern day UK law, that by making discriminatory decision in their day to day operations, they are risking both a big financial hit but even bigger impact on their reputation. The media will be quick to ‘name and shame’ those business who choose to stand firmly by their religious beliefs and impose these on other, the question of whether the impact is really worth it has to be seriously considered. Some top tips from us to help you keep on the right side of the law.
- Promote equality, not only in your workforce, but in your daily operations when dealing with customers.
- Set expectation to staff, that their own personal beliefs will be respected, however the company will not tolerate any discriminatory behaviour from anyone – staff, or clientele.
- Ensure your Equality and Diversity policy is widely communicated.
- Be prepared to take disciplinary action against staff who knowingly ignore your policy.
These tips should keep you out of court, but if in doubt get in touch and we’ll guide you through the best course of action for your business and reputation.