HR headed for non-Christian minefield

HR managers are being urged to tread carefully when dealing with staff who ask for time off to mark non-Christian religious festivals.

The warning comes as a report shows that only one in five employers have formal arrangements to cover non-Christian holidays – despite the introduction of legislation outlawing religious discrimination.

The finding is revealed in a study of 161 UK organisations, which between them employ 167,514 people, by Personnel Today’s sister publication IRS Employment Review.

“Senior managers must ensure they are fully aware of workers’ entitlements,” said IRS managing editor Mark Crail.

“With the advent of legislation dealing with discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, employers need to be sensitive to requests made by employees who want time off to mark non-Christian religious festivals.”

The survey, conducted at the end of 2004, also shows that the average public sector worker gets three or four days’ more annual holiday than those in the private sector.

Public sector employees receive an average basic holiday allowance of 27.2 days a year, compared with an overall average for all employees of 24.3 days.

Crail said UK employers continued to occupy the middle ground between the business-friendly US, and the more employee-friendly parts of the European Union.

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