Am I Entitled to Extra Annual Leave for Religious Holidays?

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Taking time off for Religious Holidays

In the UK there are a wide range of religions which are followed.

All of these have their own religious holidays, but are you entitled to take extra annual leave for them?

Furthermore, is it legal for you employer to deny you leave over a religious holiday period?

Think your employer is discriminating against you or in another way treating you unfairly? Our employment law solicitors may be able to help. 

What does the Law Say in Regard to Taking Time off for Religious Holidays?

By law, employers are not obliged to grant holiday leave for religious holidays.

Obviously, in the UK, the Christmas and Easter periods contain bank holidays which companies usually close for so these would not necessarily need to be booked off as annual leave.

However, your employer should really be respectful of your religion and try their best to be flexible around religious holidays you observe.

If there is no reason for them to reject your leave request – for example if it is not a particularly busy period and there is someone who can cover some of your jobs – then your employer should respect your religion and allow you to take leave.

If the period is really busy and they can’t allow you to take your full amount of leave, then they should talk to you about it and try and find a solution that fits you both if they can.

It is illegal to discriminate against employees wanting to observe their religion, so if you feel like that is what is happening, you can raise a grievance.

Observing Religious Holidays at Work

If for whatever reason, you aren’t able to take your leave, then your employer may be able to make temporary flexible arrangements for you. This could mean letting you work from home for part of a day, temporarily changing your working hours, or simply giving you a longer lunch for prayers.

For some religious holidays you may not need time off, but as mentioned above your employer should try their best to accommodate you at work. If they don’t, and you think they are intentionally preventing you from observing your religion, it is discrimination.

I Don’t Think My Employer is Being Lenient Enough – What Can I Do?

There are steps you can take if you believe your employer is preventing you from taking leave.

The first thing would to be to talk to your employer and ask them why your leave has not been granted. There might be a reasonable explanation, and your employer may be willing to help you work flexibly over the religious holiday period.

However, it may be the case that your employer is being unfair and preventing you from taking time off for no valid reason. In this case you would be eligible to lodge an official complaint using your company’s grievance procedure.

If you believe that you are a victim of religious discrimination at work because your employer has denied you annual leave for religious holidays, we can help.

Read more about if your employer can cancel your annual leave. 

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