Are Christian employees marginalised? 24/02/12

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Posted in:HR and Employment|February 24, 2012 | Join the mailing list

There have been a number of cases over the last couple of years involving employees claiming that they have been penalised for their Christian faith and this has led to commentators claiming that Christianity is being marginalised and that Christians are
treated less well than people of other faiths.

Another case on this theme has recently begun to be heard by an employment tribunal and this case involves an employee who claims that she had to resign because she was being pressured by her employer to work on Sundays. Celestina Mba worships every Sunday
at her Baptist church, but claims that her employer repeatedly required her to work Sunday shifts and threatened her with disciplinary action unless she agreed to work them. Her employer was the London Borough of Merton and Ms Mba worked providing respite
care for children with learning difficulties.

When Sunday trading was introduced in 1994, the legislation guaranteed that shop workers could not be forced to work on Sundays if they did not want to, but this only applies to people working in shops. For other kinds of employee, there is no such absolute
protection. If an employer requires an employee to work against their will on what they regard as a holy day, then unless the employer is specifically targeting a particular religious group, the requirement will only be unlawful discrimination if the employer
can’t justify making the requirement.

In Ms Mba’s case, the Council will doubtless say that they made the same Sunday working requirement for all their employees irrespective of faith and so the question then will be whether that requirement was a reasonable one, given its particularly detrimental
effect on church going Christians such as Ms Mba.

Ms Mba is being represented in her claim by Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister and her legal costs are being funded by the Christian Legal Centre. It will be interesting to see what the Employment Tribunal decides, particularly with the increasing
concerns raised by Christian groups as mentioned above and with the Conservative Party Chairman, Baroness Warsi, having recently complained of what she sees as attempts to downgrade the importance of religion in public life.

To discuss how we can provide further advice in connection with these issues, please contact Nigel Crebbin, Partner in our Employment team, by email to
  or alternatively you can call Nigel on 0161 833 9211.

The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No responsibility for article’s accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees.
Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of the contents of this article.

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