Absenting oneself from work for religious purposes: Da Costa

Barely worth a free-standing note, but nevertheless…

In Mr M Da Costa v Boots Management Services Ltd (England and Wales: Religion or Belief Discrimination) [2018] UKET 3327712/2017, the claimant and his wife, both Jehovah’s Witnesses, were customer assistants at Boots in Brent Cross. In 2016 they applied for places on an eight-week course in Madrid designed to improve their skills in organising and running Jehovah’s Witness activities and when they were accepted they asked for eight weeks’ leave. Mr Da Costa would have needed nearly seven weeks of that period to be unpaid leave because he had only a little over one week of his annual leave remaining. He and his wife were told that they could have three weeks’ unpaid leave – but that was of no use to them, so they took the time off anyway and were subsequently dismissed.

The Employment Tribunal flatly rejected Mr Da Costa’s claim that his request had been refused  because it had been intended for an activity closely linked to his being a Jehovah’s Witness and that someone from a different religion or with a different purpose would have been given leave:

“We consider that the refusal of permission had nothing whatsoever to do with the claimant’s religious beliefs and everything to do with the efficient operation of the business. … We are satisfied that a hypothetical comparator would have been treated the same as the claimant. For example, someone wanting to be absent for eight weeks with their wife on those dates in order to learn to become a better Scout Leader, or a better Christian or Muslim lay leader of worship, would have been dealt with in exactly the same way, as would someone wanting to be absent for reasons wholly unconnected with their faith, or lack of any faith” [41].

In short,

“… the claimant was not discriminated against by reason of his religion. He was dismissed because he had deliberately absented himself without permission knowing that his absence had been considered as one which would be likely to have a serious adverse impact on the respondent’s business due to the inability of the business to provide adequate cover for himself and his wife” [43].

Claim dismissed.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Absenting oneself from work for religious purposes: Da Costa" in Law & Religion UK, 13 December 2018, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2018/12/13/absenting-oneself-from-work-for-religious-purposes-da-costa/


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