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Sunday Working – Religious Discrimination

Devotees of Sabbatarianism may be disappointed by the very recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Mba v Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Merton [2013]. The Court of Appeal held that it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim for a local authority to require a committed Christian who held a deep and sincere belief that Sunday should be devoted to worship rather than work to undertake duties on Sundays at the children’s home where she was employed. Accordingly the employee’s claim of indirect religious discrimination failed. The outcome of this case does not mean that an employer can insist on their staff working on a Sunday, including employees who object on religious grounds to doing so, as each case will be decided on its own facts. In its judgment the Court of Appeal also held that when considering the employee’s religious belief, the Employment Tribunal had erred in law by taking into account the view that disapproval of Sunday working was not a ‘core component’ of Christianity. What mattered was the sincerity of the employee’s belief, not whether it was shared by large numbers of other Christians.