Time off for religious reasons – what are your employees entitled to?

What is a religion or belief?

Religion or belief is defined as ‘any religion, religious belief (including lack of belief) or similar philosophical belief’.

The Equality Act 2010 states that an employee must not be discriminated against because:

  • They are (or are not) of a particular religion
  • They hold (or do not hold) a particular philosophical belief
  • Someone believes they are of a particular religion or hold a particular belief despite them not doing (which is classed as discrimination by perception)
  • They are associated with someone else who has a religion or belief (which is known as discrimination by association).

Time off for religious purposes

There may be times during the year when your employees ask for time off to observe a religious holiday or for religious reasons.Religious

Whilst there is no right to guarantee time off for requests such as these, it is always best practice to accommodate where possible.  However that being said, if a large number of your workforce asks for the same period of time off and you would then struggle to continue operating or be at any sort of detriment by authorising all the requests then the business would have grounds to refuse some of them.

When doing this you can either use the ‘first come first serve’ tact or if it is a case that the requests have come through at a similar time then you might want to adopt a more basic method such as ‘names in a hat’ approach.

What should you do if an employee is denied their request and then does not turn up to work?

If an employee fails to turn up for work on the days they originally requested off following their request for leave being turned down then you have a right to investigate this further as you would in any other situation. It is fair to say that whilst there might be an occasion where it is purely by coincidence that an employee is off sick on the day they requested off, it is natural to be suspicious of this and following a full investigation, you may feel disciplinary action is warranted.Religious

Likewise, if the employee is AWOL on this day without good reason then you would be able to take disciplinary action against them.

How can we help you?

Our specialist consultants can currently assist you with the following tasks:

  • Review and draft an equal opportunity policy that includes taking time off for religious purposes
  • Deliver diversity training to management and educate them on how to deal with requests to take time off for religious reasons
  • Provide advice on how to handle numerous requests for time off for religious purposes which may mean you need to deny some due to business requirements
  • Provide advice should any employees who were denied their request call in sick or do not turn up to work (and are therefore considered absent without authorised leave)

To get in touch with us today or to view our other services, please visit PeoplepointHR today.