Religious Holidays

Religious Holidays

Religious Holidays

Religious holidays and holy days – do you have the right to time off?

The working week and the structure of the holiday season in the UK is largely based around the Christian calendar, with the Christian holy day of Sunday being part of the ‘weekend’, and public holidays occurring on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday.

Many office-based jobs are Monday to Friday roles, with holidays at Christmas and Easter. The main industries in which people might need to work at weekends include retail, hospitality, other service industries and any line of work that might be regarded as ‘essential services’. However, under a little-known law, shop workers can opt out of Sunday working by giving three months’ notice to their employer.

Most shops, and almost all offices, close on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, and most people working on these days will be in the hospitality industry, or will be those that provide essential services.

If your religion is not Christianity, then of course the annual working calendar is not organised around your religious calendar. The holiest day of the week for Muslims is Friday, and it is Saturday for Jews, although the Jewish Sabbath actually starts at sunset on Friday, which may of course be before the working day has ended.

If you follow another religion, then you don’t have the absolute right to time off for a holy day or a religious festival. The best advice here might be for you to put in a request for annual leave as soon as possible for Eid, Diwali, Chanukah, or any other religious festival, to increase the chances of your request being approved.

It may be unrealistic to expect to have your holy day off every week, but a request might be accommodated by making use of flexible working arrangements, where you can leave for a few hours to attend prayers, and then make up the time later.

Conciliation service Acas says on this subject:

“Employers are not legally obliged to grant requests for leave on religious grounds but many festivals/holy days require little or no special workplace action and some flexibility can improve staff morale.”

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