The employer, London Underground, had, what some might consider to be, a generous holiday scheme in place; Mr Gareddu was entitled to take 38 days holiday each year (inclusive of bank holidays). Mr Gareddu, a Sardinian national, was a practising Roman Catholic.
Mr Gareddu had been allowed, over a number of years to take five consecutive weeks holiday during the summer to return to Sardinia. This came to an end in 2013 when he was informed that he would only be allowed to take 15 consecutive days holiday during the summer.
Mr Gareddu claimed that it was part of his religious belief that he attended and participated in ancient religious festivals held in Sardinia. He stated that the refusal of his holiday request was unlawful indirect religious discrimination. By allowing only a maximum of three consecutive weeks holiday, Mr Gareddu contended that this amounted to a ‘provision, criteria or practice’ (PCP) which had put him at a particular disadvantage. If that were right, this would be indirect religious discrimination. London Underground would then have to demonstrate that this PCP was objectively justified by showing that the PCP was a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
The employment tribunal found that Mr Gareddu had not been entirely genuine when he claimed that he needed to attend a number of religious festivals over the five week holiday. In fact, it found that the last time he had visited Sardinia over the summer holiday, he had only attended nine out of the seventeen festivals. It was therefore incorrect for him to state that he needed to be there over the five week period for him to attend the festivals on the grounds of his faith.
On appeal, the EAT found that Mr Gareddu’s claim had not been made in good faith and it found that the real reason he wanted to visit Sardinia for such a period of time was to visit his family members.
Given the fact that Mr Gareddu’s evidence regarding his attendance at previous religious festivals in Sardinia had been brought into doubt by the tribunal and the EAT, this decision is not surprising. However, it is important that employers remember that this could have been a genuine manifestation of his religious belief. If it had been, such a long period of time could cause problems for businesses. Employers need to ascertain whether the event that the employee wishes to attend is a genuine manifestation of their religious belief, which can be difficult to assess. If is it found to be genuine, then employers can only refuse if there is a genuine business reason to justify the refusal.
If you think that this might affect your business then please contact a member of our Employment team.