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Publication - Research Publication

Scottish Social Attitudes 2015: attitudes to discrimination and positive action

Published: 30 Sep 2016
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9781786524744

This report explores attitudes to discrimination and positive action in Scotland in relation to: age, disability, gender, race, religion, gender reassignment and sexual orientation.

103 page PDF

1.1MB

103 page PDF

1.1MB

Contents
Scottish Social Attitudes 2015: attitudes to discrimination and positive action
7. Attitudes to religious dress and symbols

103 page PDF

1.1MB

7. Attitudes to religious dress and symbols

The requirement to wear particular religious dress and symbols varies across different religions, and is often heavily embedded in personal, social and cultural context. There is discussion within the Sikh (Jacobsen and Myrvold, 2016), Muslim (Bribosia and Rorive, 2014) and Christian (Barrett, 2012) faiths (amongst others; see for example Dizik, 2015) surrounding the wearing of particular religious symbols, with people's freedom to express their religious or cultural identity through the way they dress at work representing a particular area of controversy. The wearing of religious dress and symbols in the UK has often become a channel for a more general discussion about religious and cultural diversity in an increasingly multicultural society (Ormston et al, 2011), with Beybrooke (2011) arguing that a key issue in this debate is the striking of a balance 'between allowing faith communities a proper freedom and affirming our shared life together'.

The right of a Sikh man to wear a turban in the workplace is recognised by the Employment Act 1989, which exempts Sikh men from wearing helmets on construction sites. The Deregulation Act 2015 extends this provision to cover all workplaces, with the result that Sikh employees are now exempt from any requirement to wear protective headgear in working environments where there is significant risk of head injury.

The right of employees to wear other religious dress or symbols in the workplace is less clear-cut. It is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 for an employer to have a policy which someone of a particular religion is less likely to be able to meet than others, thereby placing them at a disadvantage. However if the employer can demonstrate that there are genuine reasons for the policy that are not connected with the employee's religion, the policy will not be viewed as discriminatory. [33]

There have been some high-profile legal cases [34] which have fuelled the political debate on religious dress, particularly in relation to the wearing of the full veil by Muslim women. From Conservative MP Philip Holloborne's introduction of a private members bill to ban 'face coverings' in public, to the then home secretary Theresa May's statement that it 'is for a woman to make a choice' whether or not to wear a veil (Grierson, 2013), the issue continues to generate vigorous debate (Brems, 2014).

Attitudes towards different religious symbols

To examine people's attitudes to religious dress and symbols, four questions about whether employers should have the right to request the removal of religious symbols at work were included in SSA 2015. These questions were also previously asked in 2010, making it possible to identify whether any change in attitudes towards religious dress and symbols has occurred during the last five years.

The questions asked whether a bank should be able to insist employees take off their religious dress or symbol while at work with answer options ranging from 'yes, definitely should' to 'no, definitely should not'. The questions covered:

  • A Sikh man who wears a turban [35]
  • A Christian woman who wears a crucifix [36]
  • A Muslim woman who wears a headscarf [37] , and
  • A Muslim woman who wears a veil [38]

Table 7.1 shows that attitudes towards religious dress and symbols varied according to both the religion a particular symbol is connected to, and the symbol itself. The veil was the only religious symbol that a majority of respondents felt an employer should be able to insist that an employee remove, with around two thirds (65%) saying that a bank should be able to insist that a Muslim woman remove her veil while at work. People were much less likely to think that the bank should be able to insist that people remove any of the other three religious symbols. People held similar views about a Christian woman wearing a crucifix, a Sikh man wearing a turban and a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf. Around 1 in 5 said the bank should be able to insist a Muslim woman should take off her headscarf (18%) and that a Sikh man should take off his turban (20%). A slightly lower proportion (15%) said that the bank should be able to insist that a Christian woman take off her crucifix while at work.

As shown in Table 7.1, attitudes towards a woman wearing a headscarf and a woman wearing a veil differed considerably, despite both items being connected with Islam. The vast majority (82%) of people were of the view that a bank 'probably' or 'definitely should not' insist that a Muslim woman remove a headscarf whereas, just over a third (35%) said the same of a Muslim woman with a veil. Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) of those who said that a bank should not be able to insist that a Muslim woman remove a headscarf nevertheless felt that a bank should be able to insist that a woman removes her veil, further illustrating the differing views to the two religious symbols.

Table 7.1 Whether a bank should, or should not, be able to insist an employee removes religious dress or symbol at work (2010, 2015)

Sikh man with turban Christian woman with crucifix Muslim woman with headscarf Muslim woman with veil
  2010 2015 2010 2015 2010 2015 2010 2015
Yes, definitely should 12% 9% 6% 6% 10% 7% 41% 34%
Yes, probably should 12% 11% 9% 9% 13% 11% 28% 31%
No, probably should not 35% 40% 34% 38% 44% 42% 14% 19%
No, definitely should not 34% 40% 46% 47% 28% 40% 11% 16%
Can't choose 6% 1% 5% 1% 4% * 4% 1%
(Refused) 1% - 1% - 1% * 1% *
Unweighted bases 1366 1234 1366 1234 1366 1234 1366 1234

How have attitudes to religious symbols changed over time?

Figure 7.1 shows that the views on whether a bank should be able to insist that an employee remove a crucifix, a turban or a veil at work have remained fairly stable between 2010 and 2015. However, there has been a significant decline in the proportion saying that a bank should be able to insist that a Muslim woman removes a headscarf at work from 23% in 2010 to 18% in 2015.

Figure 7.1 Believing a bank 'probably' or 'definitely should' be able to insist that an employee removes religious dress/symbol at work (2010, 2015, %)

Figure 7.1 Believing a bank 'probably' or 'definitely should' be able to insist that an employee removes religious dress/symbol at work (2010, 2015, %)

Base: All respondents who completed the self-complete
SSA 2010: Weighted= 1350, Unweighted = 1366; SSA 2015: Weighted = 1232, Unweighted = 1234

How do attitudes vary between groups?

This section explores whether attitudes to religious dress and symbols vary between different groups. Regression analysis was conducted to explore which factors were significantly and independently associated with saying that a bank 'probably' or 'definitely should' be able to insist an employee removes a turban, crucifix, headscarf or veil. The following factors were explored: [39]

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education
  • Income
  • Socio-economic classification ( NS- SEC)
  • Area deprivation (as measured by SIMD)
  • Religious affiliation
  • General attitude to prejudice
  • Preference for living in a homogenous or diverse area
  • Whether agree that more Muslims in Scotland means that Scotland loses its identity
  • Whether agree that ethnic minorities are taking jobs away from other people in Scotland
  • Whether respondent knows anyone who is a Muslim
  • Whether respondent knows anyone from a different ethnic background

Age, gender, education

The socio-demographic factors that were associated with saying that a bank should be able to insist that an employee removes a religious symbol at work were gender, age and education (see Table 7.2). Men were more likely than women (20% compared with 15%) to say that a Muslim woman should take off her headscarf at work. There was, however, no significant relationship between gender and attitudes towards the turban, crucifix or veil.

Older people were more likely than younger people to say that an employer should be able to insist that a Muslim woman removes her veil, a Sikh man removes his turban and that a Christian woman removes her crucifix at work. For example, over 4 in 5 people aged 65 or over (82%) said an employer should be able to insist a Muslim woman removes her veil compared with only around 2 in 5 of those aged 18-29 years old (43%). Age was not significantly related to attitudes towards the headscarf.

Table 7.2 Socio-demographic factors associated with saying that a bank should be able to insist an employee removes a religious symbol at work (2015)

Christian Sikh Headscarf Veil
All 14% 20% 18% 65%
Gender
Men 15% 20% 20% 68%
Women 14% 20% 16% 62%
Age
18-29 18% 19% 17% 43%
30-39 18% 22% 17% 59%
40-64 14% 18% 18% 69%
65+ 9% 23% 20% 82%
Education
Degree/Higher education 10% 12% 12% 60%
Highers/A-levels 12% 19% 18% 55%
Standard grades/ GCSEs 20% 25% 18% 74%
None 21% 34% 33% 78%

Education was associated with people's views on whether a bank should be able to insist that a Sikh man removes his turban at work and whether a Muslim woman should be required to remove her headscarf. People with no formal educational qualifications were more likely than those educated to degree level to say that a bank should be able to insist that a Sikh man take off his turban (34% compared with 12%) and to say that a Muslim woman should be required to remove her headscarf (33% compared with 12% respectively). [40] How attitudes vary by general attitudes to prejudice, diversity and identity

People's views on whether prejudice is sometimes acceptable and on diversity were related to their views on religious dress. Those who felt that 'sometimes there is a good reason for people to be prejudiced' (84%) were more likely than those who felt that 'Scotland should do all it can to get rid of all kinds of prejudice' (59%) to say that a Muslim employee should be required to remove her veil at work. Those who felt that 'sometimes there is a good reason for people to be prejudiced' were also more likely to say that a Sikh employee should be required to remove his turban and that a Christian woman should be required to remove her crucifx at work. [41]

Table 7.3 Believing that an employer should be able to insist an employee removes a religious symbol by general attitudes to prejudice and diversity

Christian Sikh Headscarf Veil Weighted bases Unweighted bases
All 14% 20% 18% 65% 1232 1234
General attitudes to prejudice
Scotland should do everything it can to get rid of all kinds of prejudice 10% 13% 12% 59% 862 867
Sometimes there is good reason to be prejudiced 28% 38% 34% 84% 264 266

Those who would rather live in an area where most people are similar to them (82%) were also significantly more likely to say that a bank should have the right to insist that a Muslim woman remove her veil than those who would rather live in an area 'with lots of different kinds of people' (50%). This pattern is also evident with regards to attitudes towards both the headscarf (27% compared with 10%) and the turban (32% compared with 10%). [42] (See Table A7.1 in Annex A for details).

People's attitudes to the veil were associated with views on whether 'Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live in Scotland'. Around 8 in 10 who agreed with this statement (81%) said that a bank should be able to insist that a Muslim woman removes her veil compared with less than half of those who disagreed that 'Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live in Scotland' (48%). [43] No significant relationship was observed between attitudes towards Muslims in Scotland and views on the crucifix, turban or the headscarf.

Perceived labour market competition

People who agreed that 'ethnic minorities take jobs away from other people in Scotland' were over four times as likely to say that a bank should be able to insist that a Muslim woman remove her headscarf than those who disagreed (37% compared with 8%). However, perceived labour market competition from ethnic minorities was not found to be significantly related to attitudes towards the crucifix, veil or turban.

Figure 7.2 Whether agree/disagree that an employer should be able to insist a Muslim woman removes her headscarf, by whether 'ethnic minorities take jobs away from other people in Scotland'

Figure 7.2 Whether agree/disagree that an employer should be able to insist a Muslim woman removes her headscarf, by whether 'ethnic minorities take jobs away from other people in Scotland'

Base: All respondents who completed the self-complete
Weighted= 1232, Unweighted= 1234


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