Religious observance and festivals—practical tips for employers
Religious observance and festivals—practical tips for employers

The following Employment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Religious observance and festivals—practical tips for employers
  • Relevant legal protections
  • The main religious festivals (in order through the year)
  • Time off and breaks for religious observance
  • Food and fasting
  • Celebrations and alcohol
  • Policies relating to religious observance

This Practice Note looks at the issues surrounding religious observance and festivals. It considers the main religious festivals and the issues that religious observance can give rise to in the workplace, including those relating to requests for time off, special food and fasting requirements, and celebrations at work. It also considers policies relating to religious observance at work.

Relevant legal protections

It is not only good practice for employers to be aware of the issues arising from employees’ religious observance, including those relating to religious festivals, but such awareness can also help employers avoid potential pitfalls which could lead to legal liability if handled badly. The key pieces of legislation that employers should consider are the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996). Discriminatory behaviour could also amount to a breach of contract, leading to potential liability for constructive dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

Equality Act 2010

Anti-discrimination protection covers individuals with a religious belief and also those who have a philosophical belief or lack of belief, see Practice Note: Religion or belief.

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly or indirectly.

Direct discrimination would be treating someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic, eg denying someone a promotion, or refusing to train someone, because they are a Muslim, see Practice Note: Direct discrimination.

Indirect discrimination is