The Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that an employer’s refusal to allow an employee to take a five-week holiday to attend religious festivals was not indirect discrimination.

discrimination

The employee, in this case, was a practising Roman Catholic. For a number of years he was permitted to take five consecutive weeks’ holiday in the summer, during which he returned to his native Sardinia. A new manager told him that he would not be allowed to take five weeks’ leave during the next year, and that it was unlikely that he would be granted more than 15 continuous working days of leave during the summer holiday period. His pre-existing arrangements for his five week summer holiday were honoured. However, his request for a similar period for the following summer was declined. He was told that he could have a maximum of three weeks’ holiday.

The employee brought a claim for indirect religious discrimination, claiming that it was part of his religious belief that in or around August each year, he attends and participates with his family in ancient religious festivals held in Sardinia. He asserted that his employer’s provision, criterion or practice of only allowing a maximum of three consecutive weeks of annual leave indirectly discriminated against him on the basis that it prevented him from manifesting his religion by attending the religious festivals.

The tribunal dismissed the claim after finding that the employee had not in fact attended religious festivals during his August holidays to Sardinia during two of his holidays and that he had not in fact attended all of the religious festivals that he had previously stated were important for him to attend each year.

The decision of which religious festivals to attend, the tribunal said, was in fact entirely dependent on the views of the employee’s family and friends. The asserted religious belief was not genuine, it said, and had not been made in good faith. The tribunal concluded that there was no religious requirement for the employee to take five consecutive weeks off in August each year to attend particular religious festivals.

No indirect discrimination

Dismissing a subsequent appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal said that the tribunal had been entitled to find that the employee had not invariably attended the whole series of festivals, which he claimed had deep religious significance for him. The real reason for wanting to take the lengthy period of holiday was the desire to be with his family.

Case reference: Gareddu v London Underground Limited