Do I have a right to take time off for a cultural or religious holiday if the day is not recognised as a public holiday?

Do I have a right to take time off for a cultural or religious holiday if the day is not recognised as a public holiday?

There are many religious or cultural holidays observed in Australia that are not recognised as public holidays. This may mean that employees are wanting to take leave so that they can participate in a religious or cultural celebration or event. Some examples of religious holidays that are not recognised as public holidays in Australia include Ramadan, Diwali and Lunar New Year.

According to Fair Work Australia employers can support the needs of employees participating in cultural or religious holidays by:

  • agreeing with employees to use leave entitlements to take time off work
  • acknowledging or celebrating these holidays in the workplace to promote awareness and inclusion
  • agreeing to flexible working arrangements, such as a change to hours, patterns or locations of work to accommodate the holiday.

Under the Fair Work 2009 (cth) it is illegal to discriminate against someone due to their religious beliefs. If an employer refuses a request for leave this could constitute discrimination and open the employer up to litigation.  To avoid this, and to keep morale, an employer should agree to employees taking time off to celebrate cultural or religious holidays which would be a reduction of annual leave and not in addition to annual leave.

If an employee thinks that they have been discriminated against for their religious beliefs, they would be wise to seek urgent legal advice.

 

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