18th December 2021

Employment Law Advent Calendar: Day 18

It’s the 18th of December and I’m feeling the holiday cheer fir sure with my Employment Law Advent Calen-deer. Look behind door number 18 for who or what is there to help employer’s deer to dream of a Merry Little Christmas!

It’s a holiday request form

Christmas was traditionally a Christian festival and Christmas Day is a public holiday aligned to this festival.

Can Christian employees refuse to work on Christmas Day for religious reasons?

If required to work under the terms of their contract of employment, the answer is no. However, employers need to be aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010; workers are protected against direct and indirect discrimination because of any religion, religious belief of philosophical belief.

Before refusing any request not to work, employers should consider whether they have a compelling business reason for refusing and should always ask themselves whether the business could in fact function satisfactorily in the employee’s absence.

Should employees who practice other faiths other than Christianity be given extra holidays to celebrate religious festivals?

There is no obligation to give extra holidays and it may actually amount to direct discrimination against other employees (for example, a Christian employee may be required to work on Christmas Day) or indirect discrimination where an employer’s policy or decision adversely impacts on those of that particular faith. Employers should not act in a discriminatory manner when refusing requests. It’s important to balance the needs of the business against the needs of the employees, so any offer to work different days/hours or work extra hours to help reduce the impact their holiday may have on the business should be given serious consideration.

Make sure you elf a merry little Christmas and contact a member of the Blackadders Employment Team working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland for help and advice.

Donna Reynolds, Partner
Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a Specialist in Employment Law & Discrimination Law
Employment Law
Blackadders LLP


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