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Rulings delivered on religious HR at work cases

BY Fiona McBeath
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

A recent Employment Tribunal decision has tackled the thorny subject of religious HR at work.

Celestina Mba, a devout Christian, was required to work on Sundays by her employer, Merton Council, at a home providing respite care for children with severe learning difficulties.  

Mrs Mba claimed that she was required by her religion to observe Sunday as a day of rest and resigned from her job when her employers refused to allow her to take Sundays off. She then raised a claim for constructive dismissal and religious HR.  

However, Mrs Mba lost her case at the Employment Tribunal and the panel decided that she had not been discriminated against nor had she been forced to resign. The Tribunal found that the Council was entitled to refuse Mrs Mba’s requests for Sunday leave on the basis that their child care service operated seven days a week. 

This case follows hot on the heels of another high profile case concerning the rights of religious followers in the workplace. That case concerned two Catholic midwives who conscientiously objected to carrying out abortions for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood were required to supervise the care of patients undergoing terminations on maternity wards following an internal change to procedure by the health board.  

The midwives raised their claim in the Court of Session, claiming that their employer had breached their Human Rights. At the end of February the Court ruled that their beliefs had been sufficiently accommodated by the NHS who did not require them to have direct involvement in the termination of pregnancies.

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