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A Day of Rest?

29th February, 2012

A devout Christian woman who claimed that she was forced to leave her job because she was made to work on Sundays has been told by an employment tribunal that she had no legal right to take Sundays off.

Celestina Mba, who worked at Brightwell Respite Care House for Merton Council helping children with severe learning difficulties, claimed constructive unfair dismissal when she was made to work Sundays. The Council stated that it had a duty to ensure children had weekend care and therefore Miss Mba was required to work Sundays.

An employment tribunal held that Miss Mba was not constructively unfairly dismissed and ruled that there was a contractual obligation to work Sundays. The tribunal stated that keeping Sunday as a day of rest was not a core component of Christianity.

Miss Mba claimed that her manager promised to work around her requirement to take Sundays off but it was held by the tribunal that there had been a misunderstanding and there was no such express agreement.

It was also claimed by Miss Mba that a Muslim colleague had been given time off for Friday prayers. This was denied by the Council. The tribunal found there was no evidence that Muslim colleagues had been treated more favourably than Miss Mba.

This case is the most recent in a string of cases involving religion within employment and this is still a developing area of employment law.

If you have any queries with regards to dealing with employees who have preferences to days or times that they like to work, please contact Catherine Kerr in the Employment team.

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