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Religion, work and Christmas

Published 01 December 2014

The super commercialisation of Christmas and dwindling church congregations has seen the real message of the Christian festival fade into the background.

The shocking images of desperate shoppers rampaging through supermarkets to grab a bargain during the chaotic scenes of Black Friday are still vivid.

While the sight of empty church pews in many places of worship across the country is now an all too familiar one.

For employees with Christian beliefs and hoping to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus, this is particularly poignant time of year.

There has been a huge increase in the number of people now expected to work throughout the festive period, and for those of the Christian faith it could prove problematic.

Employees do not have an automatic right not to work on Christmas Day for an employer open for business on 25 December. Although many employment contracts allow employees Christmas Day off.

Health workers, care workers, emergency service employees, bar and restaurant staff are just a few who will be hard at work, while the majority sit back, relax, rip open presents, tuck into the traditional turkey dinner and enjoy a mince pie or two.

Where it is reasonably possible employers should be flexible in allowing employees of any faith to take leave to observe their own religious holidays and festivals.

All employers have to comply with the religious discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

In order for a belief to be protected it must satisfy numerous standards and be a substantial feature of human life and behaviour.

Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, with more than two billion followers worldwide.

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