On the 2nd day of Christmas my employee said to me… “I don’t want to work on Christmas Day because of my religious beliefs.”
The Christmas period can be fraught with issues around workflow planning. For some businesses it can be the busiest time of the year. Faced with a worker who asks not to work on Christmas day because of their religious beliefs, employers should consider the following:
- Even though Christmas Day is a Christian holiday and a bank holiday, there is no automatic right for workers to take the day off as paid leave unless the contract of employment provides for this.
- However, all policies, rules and procedures for handling annual leave requests should be non-discriminatory in design. The Equality Act 2010 protects workers from discrimination because of any religious or philosophical belief.
- The refusal to grant a Christian worker time off could be indirect discrimination on the grounds of their religion, unless the employer can establish that the requirement to work on Christmas day can be justified. The request therefore requires careful consideration and handling by the employer.
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s guidance is that, if a worker requests annual leave for a religious occasion, employers should seek to accommodate the request PROVIDED the worker has sufficient holiday entitlement, and it is reasonable for them to take the leave. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service provides similar guidance.
This guidance equally applies to other members of staff who request annual leave at other times of specific religious significance.
For more details about the issues in this article please contact:
+44 (0) 808 172 93 22
This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.