This week Muslims all around the country will be celebrating Eid al-Adha.
This is considered one of the most significant festivals in the Islamic calendar.
Known as the Feast of Sacrifice, it is a time to visit loved ones, eat with the family, exchange gifts and pray. The event runs for four days so employers should be aware that some of your employees may wish to make certain requests.
Time off work
Employers are not obliged to provide time off for religious observance. But they should consider all requests properly and take into consideration the organisation’s annual leave policy.
If it is reasonable and practical to do so, you should accept such requests. You should only reject a request if you have a genuine reason. Remember that it’s important that when making such decisions, you do not discriminate – either directly or indirectly – against employees of particular religions.
Having said that, you need to think about your business interests. You need to ensure that you are adequately staffed at all times. If you are a small organisation and a number of your employees want the same days off, it is not possible to let them all have annual leave at the same time. With some discussion and compromise, solutions may be found. Contact your Employment Law Adviser to discuss how best to manage numerous requests.
Employees may request to have a quiet place to pray. Employers are not legally required to provide employees with a prayer room. However, if you have a quiet room available which will not disturb other colleagues, you should agree to the employee using it for prayer purposes.
You can read more about prayer rooms here.
It may be the case that you do not have a vacant room. So, you could explore whether there are suitable rooms free during particular times of the day. You could also consider whether you can provide them with some flexibility in order to allow them to pray during working hours.
When considering these types of requests, you should not just ignore them. They should be taken seriously and accommodated wherever possible. If you have the space available and provide other facilities such as an exercise room, chill out area but refuse a quiet room without a good reason, it may actually be considered discriminatory.
For in-depth and pragmatic advice on how to manage these types of requests, seek support from an Employment Law expert.