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UK – Christians no right to refuse to work on Sundays

31 December 2012

Judges have been accused of diluting the rights of Christians after a key judgment on whether they can refuse to work on Sundays.A new ruling by a High Court judge - the first on the issue in nearly a decade - says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs according to the Daily Telegraph.

The judgment, which upholds an earlier decision, means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.The judgment was issued by Mr Justice Langstaff. Who, as president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, is the most senior judge in England and Wales in this type of case.  He ruled on an appeal brought by a Christian woman who was sacked after she refused to work on Sundays at a care home. and upheld the lower tribunal’s ruling which said it was relevant that other Christians did not ask for Sundays off.

Yvette Stanley of Merton council, Miss Mba’s former employers, said it did its best to allow religious practice but also had a duty to meet the needs of the disabled children for whom it cares and added: “We are pleased with the outcome of this second tribunal. Staff recruited in the respite care service are advised that it is by its nature a weekend service.”

The senior judge said that there was evidence that many Christians work on Sundays and this was relevant in “weighing” the impact of the employers’ rule, and the earlier decision did not involve an error of law, he added.

Campaigners said the ruling showed that Christians are being treated less favourably than people from other religions, such as Muslims, Jews and Sikhs. They pointed to cases where the courts offered protection to other religions even when only a minority of adherents were affected.
In 1994, when Sunday trading in England was liberalised shopworkers were given a guarantee that working would be strictly voluntary, but the guarantee did not apply to people in other sectors.

The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations, published in 2003, say employers must justify Sunday working as a “legitimate business need” and does not give a blanket right to Christians not to work.

If employers fail to treat staff fairly and proportionately, the employee may be able to claim discrimination, the rules add.

The last ruling by judges was when a quarry worker claimed his Christian beliefs had been treated with “contempt” by employers who tried to force him to work on Sundays in 2003.
Stephen Copsey lost his case at the Court of Appeal in 2005, with judges ruling his employer had “compelling economic reasons” for insisting that he worked on Sundays.

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