How do you deal with religious holidays?

In the UK there are a wide range of different religions that may have celebrations or holidays, affecting the workplace.

Religious participation will vary with the individual’s beliefs and the festival in question and employers are not legally obliged to grant requests for leave on religious grounds. Some participation during festivals and holy days may affect employees whilst they work and this requires planning and consideration.

Employers and employees who discuss and plan requests in good time are likely to minimise any impact of such requests – keeping the requirements of the business in mind will help to balance any requests against this.

Holy days and festivals may mean some employees wish to attend additional religious events. While some of these are tied to specific times, others may provide the opportunity to attend a service at different points during the day.

There is no right that guarantees employees time off to attend religious services, but it is good practice for employers to accommodate requests where possible, although this will depend on the overall level of demand for time off and the requirements of the business. Time off can be given as unpaid, or as holiday leave or with an arrangement to work back time – there is no obligation for paid time to be granted.

Employees remaining in the workplace may also wish for a private space for prayer or meditation. Employers may have prayer rooms for such purposes but if not, designating such a space temporarily at certain times of the day (based on employees’ requests) can be a help.

Many workplaces have employees from different religious and non-religious backgrounds. Encouraging greater awareness and understanding of these backgrounds can be rewarding, particularly in terms of team building. It can also help to reduce the chance of misunderstanding and help build a more diverse workplace.

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