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Sunday working – religion or belief
In Mba v Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Merton the Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the Tribunal and the EAT in holding that, on the facts of the case (a Christian care officer working in a residential children’s home who was required to work on a Sunday), Sunday working requirement was justified in the particular circumstances as there was no viable alternative.
Interestingly however there emerged a twist to the Court of Appeal’s decision, which is that the belief that Sunday should be a day of rest was found not to be a core component of the Christian religion. The ECHR case of Eweida v UK held that a Claimant’s belief was sufficient to establish a prima facie case of indirect discrimination but the crucial point was how the degree of impact affected justification. The majority of the Court of Appeal held that although the size of the group affected by a particular measure would be a valid factor in an ordinary indirect discrimination case, it was not relevant where the right to freedom to manifest religion under article 9 of the European Convention is engaged, because article 9 does not require a Claimant to establish any group disadvantage. It therefore held that whether or not the policy was justified is likely to relate to the ease or otherwise of accommodating the religious practices of the individual concerned. The irony of the Court of Appeal reasoning is that it would seem that the more central the belief to their religion, the more difficult it will be for a Claimant to succeed with an indirect discrimination claim because there will be more people affected and so more difficult for the employer to accommodate.
This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.
For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222
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