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Religion, work and Christmas; what employers need to know.

Published 09 December 2014

For many employers the festive period is business as usual. 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 companies now expecting employees to work throughout the festive period and on Christmas Day, and for workers who observe the Christian faith it could prove problematic.

Employers open for business on 25 December do not have to give staff the day off if it is not stated in the employment contract. Employees do not have an automatic right not to work on Christmas Day.

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.

However, businesses 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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