Time off for prayer

An organisation does not have to release staff for prayer outside normal rest break but staff may request that their rest/meal break coincide with their obligation to pray at certain times.

It may be very possible to respond in a positive and flexible way to these requests and it is, therefore, good practice to ensure that staff know how to make such a request. Prayer time may take no longer than a tea break and it may be possible to demonstrate thoughtfulness and respect for an employee’s beliefs and needs, without any difficulties arising.

However no organisation is obliged to agree to requests that will cause unreasonable disruption and managers and supervisors need to consider their responsibilities to all their employees when considering time off requests. It is important to explore alternatives and to talk with the employees affected who may have helpful ideas.

Employers may, therefore, be justified in refusing a request that is going to cause difficulties that cannot reasonably be addressed in any other way. If however, they are unable to justify a refusal, this may be discrimination.