Religious Holiday Requests

If managing holiday requests wasn’t already a headache, employers are now increasingly challenged with the task of approving employees’ holiday leave for attending religious festivals.
Whilst there is no automatic right for an employee to be granted religious holiday leave, it is good practice for an employer to carefully consider and accommodate such holiday requests where possible. Employers should adopt a fair system which meets their business needs but also takes into consideration the circumstances of those employees who may wish to take leave for religious reasons.
Recent case law
The recent case of Gareddu v London Underground provides useful guidance when granting employees extensive leave for religious reasons. In this case, Mr Gareddu (the employee) asserted that his employer’s policy in allowing a maximum of three weeks’ consecutive leave was indirectly discriminatory because it prevented him from attending Roman Catholic festivals in Sardinia.
It was held that Mr Gareddu’s presentation of his own religious belief was not made in good faith as it appeared that the real reason for requesting a lengthy period of leave was to spend time with his family. It was decided that attendance at festivals was a personal choice and not a requirement of religion that amounted to a protected characteristic. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that it was not indirectly discriminatory for the employer to refuse this holiday request. Had the employee attended the same religious festival each year, the decision may have been different.
This case highlights the importance of adopting consistent and fair workplace policies on religious holiday which do not disadvantage employees for religious reasons.
Top tips for considering religious holiday requests
In light of the above case, employers may wish to consider the following guidance when approving or refusing religious holiday requests:

  1. Employers should be proactive and be prepared to deal with religious holiday requests. Some employers may wish to have an annual schedule identifying when religious festivals and events are due to take place. The schedule may assist employers when faced with accommodating holiday leave requests which are aligned with the lunar cycle.
  2. Employers should be aware that days for religious events can change from year to year.
  3. It should be considered whether the request for holiday leave can be accommodated or compromised with the employee. Holiday leave should balance the needs of the business and the employee who is requesting the leave.
  4. Further to the EHRC Employment Statutory Code of Practice, ‘a person does not have to prove that the manifestation of their religion or belief is a core component of the religion or philosophical belief they follow’. An employer must carefully consider whether or not an employee genuinely and reasonably adheres to their religious belief as considered in the case of Gareddu v London Underground.
  5. An employer should treat all religious holiday requests fairly and consistently. An employer who makes an allowance for one employee but refuses the equivalent benefit for an employee of a different religion would be considered as directly discriminating.
  6. Employers should clearly communicate with employees their reasons for refusing a request for religious holiday and be careful that they are not seen to be discriminating against an employee who is denied leave for reasons which cannot be properly justified.

How can Askews help you?

Askews Legal LLP has a dedicated team of Employment Law solicitors who can assist with any employment law issues. If you require advice about granting or refusing leave for religious holiday, please contact us:

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T: 024 76 231000


Askews Legal LLP – Solicitors Coventry.