Your Questions Answered
Posted on by Angela Rhodes
Q: One of our Muslim employees requested a day off to celebrate the religious festival of Eid al-Adha recently, giving us just a week’s notice. His request was declined on the basis that there were too many of his colleagues already absent on holiday at the same time. He has since claimed that we are discriminating against him on the grounds of his religion. This can’t be true, can it?
A:Eid al-Adha is an Islamic holiday which marks the end of the Hajj Pilgrimage and this year fell on 21st August. Muslims celebrate this important festival with their families and communities and so will often request time off to enable them to participate.
There is no legal requirement on employers to permit time off to observe religious holidays but it would be good practice to accommodate such requests for holiday wherever possible. If the employee doesn’t have sufficient holiday, we may well recommend that consideration be given to unpaid leave.
To answer this question though, you could argue that the employee left it too late to make the request to take holiday when his colleagues had already been granted time off. The Muslim employee will have known the date of Eid well in advance and so should have made a request for the day off well in advance.
Discuss the situation with him and explain that the reason why you declined his request was purely for business reasons and the fact that his colleagues had already booked that time off and that it was nothing to do with his reason for requesting leave. Tell him to make sure that if he wants time off to celebrate Muslim festivals in the future to get his request in early and there will be no problem!
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