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Good Faith Lacking in Religious Discrimination Claim

Wise employers intent on avoiding discrimination make every allowance for workers’ religious beliefs. However, in one striking case, a tribunal ruled that that did not extend to granting a Roman Catholic transport worker more than a month off every summer so that he could attend religious festivals in the land of his birth.

The man had in the past been permitted to take five consecutive weeks’ holiday so that he could join his family during the festival season in Sardinia. He said the saint day festivals were very dear to him and of great religious significance. However, following a change in management, he was informed that he would in future only be permitted 15 days’ consecutive leave. That prompted his complaint of indirect religious discrimination to an Employment Tribunal (ET).

It was agreed that participation in the festivals might constitute a manifestation of the man’s religious beliefs. However, in dismissing his claim, the ET found that he was not genuine in asserting that he required five weeks off work annually in order to attend them. His true reason for wanting such lengthy periods of continuous leave was his wish to spend time with his family.

In rejecting his challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the ET’s conclusions were permissible on the evidence. It had not embarked on an evaluation of the validity of the man’s beliefs but had rightly focused on whether or not his assertion that he required to attend the festivals over a specific five-week period for religious reasons was made in good faith.