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Refusal to attend religious festival held not to be indirect discrimination

Barry Walsh



The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in the UK has rejected a claim of indirect religious discrimination by a catholic employee who had sought 5 weeks’ consecutive holiday leave to attend religious festivals. The leave request had been refused by his employer. The employee argued that he had previously attended these religious festivals citing that they were of deep religious significance and claimed that the employer’s practice of only granting 3 consecutive weeks’ of annual leave was indirectly discriminatory. In its decision, the UK EAT took the view that the employee’s previous attendance at the annual festivals was falsified and that the request was not made in good faith. It noted that he had in fact only attended around half of the festivals he had claimed, and that the employee’s real reasons for seeking such leave was to take a lengthy holiday with his family. This claim failed on the facts and, particularly, as the employee’s application was not made in good faith. While the UK EAT did not have to make a more general finding, it did note that the test in such cases is that the employee must show that the failure to grant the leave would put him at a particular disadvantage in comparison with others of a different religion. A copy of the decision can be found here