Springhouse Solicitors

Religious belief discrimination case

We report on a case where it was held not to be indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief for an employee to be refused holiday to attend religious festivals.

Background

The Claimant in this case, Mr Gareddu, claimed that he had been allowed to take 5 weeks annual leave each year to attend the same 17 festivals each year in Sardinia, where his family lives.

A new manager declined the request for the 5 weeks annual leave in 2014, as there was a company maximum of 3 weeks. However, Mr Gareddu  had been given 5 weeks’ leave between 2009 and 2013 to attend the various festivities.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that Mr Gareddu’s claim for indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief should not succeed. This was because Mr Gareddu had claimed that he attended the same 17 festivals each year. In fact, the evidence showed that in the last year, 2013 he had only attended 9 of the 17 festivals identified. As Mr Gareddu’s claim was that his religious belief required that he attend all of the festivals, this assertion was found not to have been made in good faith.

The Tribunal’s reasoning was also that the non-attendance at some of the festivals indicated that which festival to attend was a matter of family choice and arrangement rather than a matter of religious belief.

Implications

What this case highlights is that Claimants in these cases need to be particularly careful how they articulate the religious belief they are relying on, and the manifestation of that belief.

The case shows how easy it is for a Tribunal to characterise what might be seen as a manifestation of a religious belief, as a manifestation of something else, for instance, in this case, family arrangements.

Claimants would be well advised to be very clear, narrow, and focussed about the religious belief manifestations they are relying on.