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Indirect religious discrimination

Background                                            

The Claimant was employed by London Underground Ltd (“the Company”) and was entitled to 38 days’ holiday per year.

In previous years, the Claimant had been allowed to take 5 consecutive weeks’ holiday in the summer. However, in 2015, a new manager had been appointed and refused to allow the Claimant’s request for 5 weeks’ consecutive holiday, restricting annual leave at one time to a 3-week maximum.

The Claimant claimed that during those 5 weeks in the summer which he would usually have as annual leave, as part of his religious belief would attend 17 ancient religious festivals in Sardinia.

After an unsuccessful grievance on the grounds of religious discrimination, the Claimant brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal on the grounds that the refusal to allow him the 5-weeks consecutive holiday was unlawful indirect religious discrimination.

Decision

The Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim. Based on the evidence, it found that the Claimant actually only attended 9 of the 17 religious festivals he claimed were important for him to attend each year and spent the remaining annual leave with his family. The Tribunal concluded that there was no religious requirement for the Claimant to have 5-weeks consecutive leave to attend 17 religious festivals.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the Claimant’s appeal.

Comment

It is important to recognise that had the Claimant genuinely been required to attend the 17 religious festivals it could have been discrimination to refuse his request. The Company would then have to demonstrate that the policy of restricting holiday was justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Requests for annual leave to celebrate religious festivals should be reviewed and assessed on a case by case basis.

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