Postal workers who were refused time off to celebrate a religious holiday are considering legal action against the Royal Mail as reported in today’s Yorkshire Evening Post. Muslim staff at the distribution centre in Leeds say they are usually allowed to take the day off to mark Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. However, all requests were refused this year for ‘operational reasons’.
Our advice to employers on this point is, where possible, to be sensitive to such observances and look into, for example, whether it is possible to re-arrange shifts to accommodate such requests. However, that said, there is no specific entitlement to time off for religious holidays or festivals. This is a problematic issue, particularly where (as is the case here) large numbers of workers request the same day(s) off. Best advice is to deal with this head on and where you anticipate a large number of requests discuss this in advance with employees or representatives to try to agree how it can be best managed. The aim is to estalish a fair system for granting (or not) leave requests which balances employees needs to celebrate religious or belieft observances and employer’s needs to function as a business and not be short staffed. You must be clear as to your reasons for granting (or not) requests and be able to justify these. Employers should also bear in mind that some religious or belief festivals are aligned with the lunar cycle so the date can move from year to year.