How To Manage Religious Holiday Entitlement

Posted on 13 November 2019 by IRIS FMP

Categories: Global Payroll

In today’s ever-increasing multicultural societies, awareness and understanding surrounding religious holidays is of the utmost importance. In thriving business centres across the world there are employees from all cultures and religious backgrounds, and it can be challenging to navigate the implications of this when it comes to time off work. Learn more about how to manage time off for religious reasons.

Religious Leave Challenges

A particular challenge in business is that in many countries, the dominating religion dictates the public holidays – for example Easter bank holidays in the UK. While Christian people are likely to appreciate these days off, employees of other religions would likely prefer to have time off at other occasions.

The difficulty surrounding this issue can be with regards to employees’ holiday requests. While there is no law that says employees should be allowed time off for specific religious holidays (where the holidays differ to that of their respective country of residence), it is possible that employees might claim indirect discrimination if they are denied the time off work. Because of this it is recommended that, wherever possible, companies accommodate such holiday requests.

Religious Holidays across the World

The five biggest religions in the world are;

  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism

Members of these may or may not observe the holidays associated with their religion, for which they might request time off work. It is therefore beneficial to have an understanding of the relevant dates;

Religious Holidays in Christianity

Christmas – 25th & 26th December bank holidays

Easter – Good Friday & Easter Monday bank holidays (10th & 13th April in 2020)

Religious Holidays in Islam

Ramadan – 9th month of Islamic calendar, lasting 30 days (23rd April – 23rd May 2020)

Eid al-Fitr – the Festival of Breaking the Fast, marking the end of Ramadan (23rd-24th May 2020)

Eid al-Adha – the Festival of Sacrifice, lasting 4 days (30th July – 3rd August 2020)

Al-Hijra – Islamic New Year (19th-20th August 2020)

Prophet’s Birthday – (28-29th October 2020)

Religious Holidays in Hinduism

Holi – Festival of Spring, lasting 2 days (9-10th March 2020)

Diwali – honours Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, lasting 5days but the main celebration is on the 3rd day (12-16th November 2020)

Religious Holidays in Buddhism

Nirvana Day – celebrates Buddha’s death, when he reached Nirvana (8th or 15th February)

Religious Holidays in Judaism

Passover – celebrates the freeing of the Jews out of Egypt by Moses (8th-16th April 2020)

Hanukkah – celebrates the Jewish victory over the Greeks in which they won freedom to practice their religion 2,000 years ago (22-30th December 2019, and 10th-18th December 2020)

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement, a sombre holiday for repentance (27th-28th September 2020).

Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year (18th-20th Sept 2020)

NB. It is important to note that many of these holidays will fall on different dates on different years.

How Time off for Religious Reasons can Impact Payroll

The payroll process often poses many different complications and hurdles at the best of times, before tackling the implications of religious leave. It is important that international companies with a multicultural staff give thought to how they will deal with requests for time off, and whether this will impact on employees’ pay and/or pay dates. For example, this is especially relevant when companies bring December’s pay forward because of Christmas – while appreciated by some, this could be inconvenient for others.

Why Time off for Religious Observance might affect HR

Similarly, HR teams need to be aware of potential holiday requests and how they will be dealt with, especially when there are crossovers such as with Christmas and Hanukkah in some years. It is important that employers show equal respect and understanding for employees of all different religions, and not show favour to certain groups in the way of time off for religious leave.

Advice and expertise is available at IRIS FMP, for any companies that are finding religious holidays to be a specific challenge in their HR and Payroll teams. Find more information about national holidays in different countries with our in-country guides, or contact us to find out how we can help.