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Assertion that five weeks’ holiday to attend religious festival was not genuine

Posted on 21st February 2017
Case law

A request for holiday to attend religious festivals was not genuine and therefore the employment tribunal did not need to decide if refusing it was discriminatory.

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employers ... can consider if the request is made genuinely for the religious reasons asserted or some other reason

Garreddu v London Underground Ltd [2016] EAT

Facts

Mr G was Roman Catholic, born in Sardinia but now living in the UK.  He requested five weeks’ holiday in one block in 2015 to attend various religious festivals in Sardinia with his family and friends.  Although it had been allowed in the past on this occasion it was refused.  The London Underground had a policy of only allowing three weeks’ holiday to be taken at any one time. 

Mr G brought a claim alleging that the refusal was indirect religious discrimination.

At the employment tribunal a question arose about whether Mr G’s request was genuinely made to attend the various religious festivals as he contended. It transpired that Mr G had not attended these festivals since 2013 as, whilst he had been in Sardinia, he was injured in 2014.  In 2013 he had only attended 9 festivals of 17 and it transpired during evidence that he did not regularly attend any specific festivals, with the exception of one.  The festivals he attended were a matter of discussion and agreement with his family.

Decision

The employment tribunal was not concerned that there was a dual purpose for Mr G’s request, namely to attend religious festivals and to spend time with family.  Nor was the employment tribunal concerned that others of the same religion did not manifest their religion in the same way.  What they were concerned with was whether the request for the particular five weeks’ holiday was to attend the religious festivals.  

The employment tribunal accepted that participation in religious festivals may constitute a manifestation and that attendance at particular festivals as a manifestation could be in good faith, what it did not accept (on the facts of this case) is that this was required to be for a period of five weeks over August.'  In these circumstances it did not then need to go on decide if London Underground had discriminated or not. 

The EAT upheld this decision.

Comment

This case did not decide if London Underground’s refusal was or was not discrimination and should not be taken as a green light to refuse requests by individuals wishing to attend religious fesitvals.  

This case does, however, remind employers that they can consider if the request is made genuinely for the religious reasons asserted or some other reason before making a decision whether or not to allow it. 

If you would like assistance and advice on whether to refuse holiday which on the face of it is made for religious reasons then please do get in touch.  We would be happy to help.

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