07 February 2017 #Employment
It is accepted that attendance at religious festivals can constitute a manifestation of religious belief giving rise to indirect discrimination claims, however, the EAT in Gareddu v London Underground Ltd held that the employee’s request must be genuine.
The claimant was a practicing Roman Catholic who requested five consecutive weeks leave to allow him to attend 17 religious festivals with his family in Sardinia. During the tribunal proceedings, it emerged that there had been occasions when he had been unable to attend the festivals at all due to ill health and, one year, he had chosen to attend only nine of the 17 festivals.
The EAT, in dismissing the Claimant’s appeal, found that the claimant had not acted in good faith. The true reason for wanting the leave was not his religion but to spend time with his family. Even if this was wrong, the EAT held that the Claimant could not have succeeded in establishing that he had suffered a ‘particular disadvantage’ (necessary for indirect discrimination claims) as it would be necessary to show that the disadvantage flowed from his holding or practising the religious belief in question.
Of course, employers should consider such requests on a case by case basis and seek to accommodate them unless there is a legitimate business need to refuse, however, this case is helpful for employers in highlighting that more lengthy periods of leave (which will usually be more difficult to accommodate) may not amount to a genuine manifestation of a religious belief.