Should employees who practise religions other than Christianity be given additional time off in lieu where a bank holiday is aligned to a Christian festival such as Easter?
There is no requirement for employers to allow additional time off in lieu for employees who practise religions other than Christianity. This would result in more favourable treatment for certain religious groups, and amount to unlawful direct discrimination. Employees have the option of using their holiday entitlement to request time off for religious purposes.
However, employers should be aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, which protects workers against direct and indirect discrimination because of any religion, religious or philosophical belief, or lack of religion or belief. Arguably, if employees are required to take annual leave on bank holidays due to the closure of the workplace, this could amount to indirect discrimination against employees of religions other than Christianity, who have to use additional annual leave to request time off for religious purposes. However, an employer is likely to be able to justify this requirement on the grounds that it is not feasible to operate on public holidays, for example because custom is limited and its suppliers are closed.