Religious festivals: request for five weeks’ holiday

13 February 2017

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld an employment tribunal decision in Gareddu v London Underground Ltd that the claimant's assertion that his beliefs required him to take a block of five weeks' leave to attend religious festivals was not genuine.

The Claimant's case before the Tribunal was that it is part of his religious belief that in or around the month of August he attends and participates with his family in ancient religious festivals held in the region of Sardinia where he was born. He challenged the refusal to permit him to have more than 15 consecutive days of annual leave in August 2015 and/or to permit him to work during part of this holiday at home as unlawful indirect religious discrimination contrary to section 19 of the Equality Act 2010.

The ET dismissed his claim on the basis that the "asserted religious belief requiring attendance at a series of religious festivals during the period 27 July to 2 September" was not made in good faith.  Whilst both the Respondent and the Tribunal accepted that participation in religious festivals might constitute a manifestation of religious belief, it was the assertion of a specific five-week period in which to attend a series of religious festivals that resulted in the Tribunal's finding. The Claimant appealed.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. While it was common ground (and accepted by the Employment Tribunal) that attendance at festivals in Sardinia could be a genuine manifestation of religion or religious belief, there was no error of principle or perversity in the Employment Tribunal's conclusion that the Claimant was not genuine in asserting that he required a five week period over the summer off work, in order to attend religious festivals with his family, as a manifestation of his religion or belief.