Requests for changes to hours of work or flexible working relating to a worker's religion or belief

Some religions or beliefs may require their followers to pray at certain times of day, or to have finished work by a particular time.

For example:

Some Jews will finish work before sunset on Friday in order to avoid working on the Jewish Sabbath, and will not work again until after sunset on Saturday.

If your employer applies a rule like this, such as refusing to allow a worker to take particular rest breaks or to finish work by a particular time, they need to objectively justify what they are doing, as otherwise this may be indirect discrimination because of religion or belief.

For example:

An employer imposes a permanent work rota requiring occasional Sunday working. One employee is an active Christian. When the woman accepted the job six months earlier she had told her company that she was unable to work on a Sunday because of her faith. This was accepted at the time. She resigns when told that the change to working Sundays is non-negotiable. This rule has a worse impact on the woman and other Christians for whom Sunday observance is a manifestation of their religion. Applying the rule will be indirect discrimination because of religion or belief unless the employer can objectively justify it.

A small manufacturing company needs its staff to take their breaks at set times because of the manufacturing process which requires that a process has to be complete before equipment can be left. A worker for whom praying at particular times of the day is a requirement of their religion asks if they can take their breaks at the times when they need to pray, making up the time over the course of the rest of the day. The company considers the request by looking at the impact on the business. Refusing the request may be indirect discrimination because of religion or belief unless the employer can objectively justify it, which it may be able to do if, for example, there is no alternative way of doing the work.

Some religions require extended periods of fasting. If your employer chooses to make special arrangements to support workers through a fasting period, this would be a matter of good practice and may in some circumstances be required.

For example:

A large catering company employs a large number of Muslim workers. During Ramadan, when the Muslim workers are fasting as an integral part of their religion, the employer allows them to take additional breaks.

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Last Updated: 06 Jan 2015