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What does the law say about the religious holidays you have to grant your employees?

by , 25 November 2013
The cultural and religious diversity of our employees is something that must be respected in the workplace. But when it comes to religious holidays, employers are often left wondering whether they HAVE TO grant leave for obscure holidays.

The experts at theLabour Law for Managers Loose Leafshed some light on the facts.
What you can – and can't – do about religious holidays and events
South Africa recognises 13 public holidays every year. Only two of these, Christmas Day and Good Friday, are religious holidays and must be granted to all employees, regardless of their religion. 
Don't discriminate employees on grounds of religion.
This would be a clear violation of the Bill of Rights and the Employment Equity Act.

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You could be 'guilty' of religious discrimination without even realising it
Don't invite or force employees to attend a Christmas function. Rather invite them to a Year-End function. This will remove any claims of discrimination.
You should also consider making reasonable accommodations for religious groups or amend employment policies and practices to recognise religious practices of the major religious groups. 
But, what's considered reasonable accommodation?
This is up to you, and if applicable, your Employment Equity (EE) Committee will decide. 
An employee isn't entitled to take paid religious leave for holidays other than the recognised public holidays. However, it would be unfair if you unreasonably didn't allow employees of other religions to take annual or unpaid leave to observe their religious festivals.
It's important that you are aware of the various religious holidays so that this accommodation isn't abused. All religions have a number of festivals which, even in a predominantly Islam or Hindu country wouldn't necessarily be a public holiday, just as Christian countries don't recognise all 12 Christian festivals. 
With this knowledge about holidays, you can go into the festive season feeling more secure!

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