The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published new guidelines for employers on their obligations to employees who wish to rearrange work around religious holidays.
In a letter sent to the Board – and designed to be read by employers – the EHRC reminds them that they must respect Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which is the right to religious freedom under British law. The letter goes on to recommend suitable ways for employees to go about rearranging their work duties.
The Board has also met with the TUC and is now seeking meetings with the individual teaching unions, with the aim of reaching agreement with them on handling the cases of Jewish teachers being denied time off for religious holidays.
The campaign led by the Board was launched after the Board was inundated with enquiries from employees – many of whom were teachers – after Rosh Hashanah coincided with the beginning of term last year for many English and Welsh schools. Others affected came from across the private and public sector.
The Board called for formal evidence of discriminatory practice through letters in the Jewish press and social media.
It then presented the accounts, in anonymised form, to the EHRC. Also included were 10 examples of where members of the Jewish public had not had difficulties rearranging work around Jewish festivals in order to help formulate good practice guidelines.
In addition to the letter issued by the EHRC, the Department for Education (DfE) has now provided the Education team with links to their policy documents sent to all schools. Included is guidance on Code R absences that clearly makes provision for a day set aside exclusively for religious observance.
The Board is advising parents and employees to make requests to schools and employers as early as possible in writing, supported by letters prepared by a religious organisation, that can authenticate that the particular days are set aside for religious observance.
Board President Vivian Wineman says: “The Board will continue to reach out to Government departments, including the DfE, the unions and quangos like the EHRC, to ensure that Jews are in no way penalised for choosing to live a full religious life.”
To read the EHRC guidance in full click here