Time Off for Religious Festivals

09 March 2017

London Underground limited the amount of holiday its staff could take in one go. An employee who is a practising Roman Catholic argued this policy and lost his claim.

Gareddu v London Underground Ltd

Like many employers, London Underground limited the amount of holiday its staff could take in one go. Mr Gareddu, who is a practising Roman Catholic, argued that this policy, criterion or practice of not allowing more than three weeks’ holiday at a time indirectly discriminated against him. It meant that he was not able to spend five weeks attending various religious festivals in Sardinia. He was prevented from manifesting his religious belief, he argued.

Mr Gareddu lost his claim. The employment tribunal found that when he had previously travelled to Sardinia for this purpose, he hadn’t attended all of the festivals. This was more about a desire to be with his family in Sardinia than religious beliefs or their manifestation. The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld that decision.

Employers may well be wary of delving into the details of an employee’s request for leave but, as this case shows, there can be good reasons to stand your ground. Even where an employee’s request has the necessary elements of genuineness and good faith (and bear in mind that attendance at religious festivals can be a genuine manifestation of religion or religious belief), you may be able to justify not allowing more leave than your policy prescribes. There will usually be a sound reason behind limiting the amount of leave employees can take at any one time, and that policy could well be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. But handle each case very carefully on its facts.

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