Refusal of 5 weeks’ leave to attend religious festivals was not discriminatory

In Gareddu v London Underground Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that employer’s decision to refuse a lengthy period of leave was well founded.

Mr Gareddu is a quality engineer for London Underground and has an annual holiday entitlement of 38 days. Mr Gareddu typically took 5 consecutive weeks’ holiday each summer which he claimed were to attend religious festivals near his place of birth in Sardinia, Italy. This 5 week holiday generally overlapped with the summer school holidays, a particularly busy time for London Underground. Previously Mr Gareddu had been permitted to take lengthy periods of leave, however matters changed under his new line manager who told Mr Gareddu that he could take 3 weeks’ leave maximum at any one time going forward.

Mr Gareddu claimed the refusal to allow him to take 5 weeks’ leave amounted to indirect discrimination on the grounds of his religious beliefs.

Following dubious witness evidence, the Employment Tribunal dismissed Mr Gareddu’s claim, finding that his request for holiday was actually motivated by his desire to spend more time with his family and not necessarily his religious beliefs. Mr Gareddu had in fact only attended 9 of the 17 allegedly crucial religious holidays. Accordingly, the Tribunal held that Mr Gareddu’s assertion that he was being prevented from manifesting his religious beliefs had not been made in good faith.

Undeterred, Mr Gareddu appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal who upheld the Tribunal’s judgement on the basis that they had been entitled to reach the conclusion they did based on the evidence.

Clearly, Mr Gareddu did not help himself. However, had his desire to take 5 weeks’ leave been solely motivated on religious grounds his claim may still have failed on the basis that London Underground’s policy on limiting annual leave to 3 weeks at any one time may have been deemed a proportionate means of ensuring sufficient staff cover at all times. Unfortunately, the ET did not deal with this point.