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Influencing and supporting religious identity in the NHS through faith competency

Start date

January 2020

End date

January 2022


Despite recognition of religious identity as a key diversity issue in organisations and a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, little research has, to date, investigated the intersection of religion and the workplace.

According to an NHS Staff Survey in 2014, nearly 70 per cent of the NHS workforce is religiously affiliated, suggesting that a large segment of the workforce identifies with a religion. This raises questions about whether religious and occupational identities can be compatible or incompatible

In her NHS commissioned research projects ‘Religious Identity and Working for the NHS’ and ‘NHS Literature and Evidence Review on Unified Information Standard – Protected Characteristics’, Dr YingFei Heliot found high levels of religious discrimination and a lack of faith competency in NHS staff. As a result of this, staff are reported to experience conflict in, decision making, job performance and poor wellbeing.

YingFei wanted to dig deeper into this workplace dilemma because of the importance of ensuring staff in the NHS are able to practice their faith and carry out their job roles on a day-to-day process.

YingFei’s work aims to raise awareness of religion and beliefs, which are not spoken about in the workplace, and challenge current assumptions. Her research will provide learning and development specialists with a framework with which to address this complex issue.




YingFei has the support of NHS Employers who are a membership led body representing NHS trusts. For this impact fund project, she will be working with 7 NHS Trusts/hospitals.

Through online workshops with NHS staff, Yingfei is working to establish shared experiences around faith in the workplace, to engage with HR managers who may be influenced to adapt policy, and ultimately to define one policy change they would like to see carried out.

She wants to make an impact on local trusts' policies in managing religious identity in the workplace. This is already happening with the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust - more details will be shared about this once their new HR policy has been launched.

There is the opportunity to develop, spread and sustain YingFei's work further, as it has global scope for other countries. YingFei is also reaching out to other networks which have an issue with religious identity in the workplace, which include the fire rescue service, police, prison service, and academia. 

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