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Can employees insist on being given prayer breaks?

23 June 2015
The Equality Act 2010 does not require employers to provide time off for prayer or religious observance, or to alter an employee’s working pattern to allow for prayer at specific times of the day. Nonetheless, a refusal without good reason to accommodate an employee’s request for time off, or for an alteration to his or her working patterns for religious purposes, could amount to indirect religious discrimination. Indirect discrimination can be justified where the employer can show that a refusal to grant the employee’s request for time off is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. In Qureshi v Teknequip, a Muslim employee was refused an extended lunch break one day a week to attend prayer at his Mosque. It was held that he was not indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of race. The employer succeeded for a number of reasons, including that it had allowed the employee an extra half-hour for lunch on Fridays, and the employee was permitted to say prayers during break time without restriction.

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