Embracing our multicultural society and workforce is the norm and a good number of our employees will celebrate religious events throughout the year. Depending on the business these days can fall at busy times and I have been asked the question, ‘do we have to accept this time off as it is a religious celebration?’  

In short, there is no right in law to time off to celebrate or take part in religious ceremonies or celebrations.  However, I would suggest you look to try and accommodate employees’ religion and practices that result from their ethnic background wherever possible and always ensure you treat everyone fairly.

From a practical point of view, productivity from those celebrating, depending on the event, might be lower because of the extra activities they are involved in which may impact on sleep.  Fasting may be part of the activities which again may impact on participation at work.

Furthermore, and generally speaking for all requests to take time off, if this is ignored without fair consideration, there may be an additional lack of motivation and negativity.

I would always recommend that these conversations are held early so that you can both prepare, encourage staff to talk to you and explain what they would like and the options. 

Depending on the time needed, and in an ideal world you would agree with the employees that they can either take holiday or authorised unpaid leave, however alternative ways to support could be if you run a shift pattern you might be able to alternate shifts or swap them for a later time. You might wish to consider temporarily delaying start or finish times to allow more time for those that need it.

As in most cases early communication is key as this allows time to plan and prepare.

For guidance and support, please feel free to contact me.

Until then all the best!