Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer
Search the Staffnet siteSearch StaffNet
Search type

Religion or belief (including no belief)

The Equality Act protects everyone with a religion or belief (including people with no religion or belief and those with a philosophical belief).  The Act says that ‘religion means any religion’, but doesn’t include a definition of religion.  This is interpreted this as including any religion of sufficient seriousness which has a clear structure and belief system.  The Act therefore protects religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, as well as others such as Baha’i, Jainism, Rastafarianism and Zoroastrianism. A religion need not be mainstream or well known to be protected under the Act.

In addition, denominations or systems of belief within religions, such as Methodism or Sabbatarianism within Christianity, or Sunni or Shia within Islam, are likely to be religions for the purposes of the Act.

The Act says that ‘religion includes... a lack of religion’. This means that people without a religion, such as atheists, humanists and secularists, are protected under the Act.  It also means that a person who has a particular religion will be protected if they are discriminated against because they lack another, different religion.

At The University of Manchester we concentrate on the six major faith groups - although we recognise, as per above, there are many other beliefs and religions. 

We can understand more about the diversity of beliefs on campus from the last census in 2010:


Religion/Belief Manchester UK
Christian 62.4% 71.7%
No Religion/Belief 16% 14.6%
Muslim 9.1% 3.1%
Hindu 0.7% 1.1%
Sikh 0.4% 0.7%
Jewish 0.8% 0.5%
Buddhist 0.5% 0.3%
Other 0.3% 0.3%
*This table will be updated once 2020 census information is available

What is a Philosophical Belief?

The equality act does not include a definition of belief other than ‘belief means any religious or philosophical belief’ and includes a lack of a particular belief. A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but it must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.

For a philosophical belief to be protected under the Act it must: be genuinely held be a belief and not just an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available be about a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance, and be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not in conflict with fundamental rights of others.

Beliefs such as humanism, pacifism, vegetarianism and the belief in man-made climate change are all protected.  However, beliefs such as Holocaust denial, or the belief in racial superiority are not protected.

Guidance & Policies

We have a number of pieces of useful guidance with regards to religion and belief:

The Policy on religious observance and guidance for students is also available:

We have recently updated our guidance on Ramadan:

Some additional guidance for healthcare students on Placement is also available:

The University's Diversity Calendar

The Equality Diversity and Inclusion Team produce a diversity calendar each year.  This helps people when scheduling particular events and meetings as it lists all the major festivals and religious holidays for the main 6 religions and beliefs.  The calendar can be viewed here, or you can request a copy from the equality, diversity and inclusion team.

As part of the activities for the calendar we have produced a number of handy factsheets for different religions and beliefs:

2010: Muslim (2013 version)     2011: Judaism     2012: Christianity     2013: Hinduism

2014: Sikhism     2015: Buddhism     2016: No Belief     2017: Muslim (2018 version)

2018: Judaism (2018 version)

There are other resources and information available:

If you would like any further information on this or any other equality issue please contact the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team