Even though South Africa's public holiday
list only recognises two religious holidays
(Christmas Day and Good Friday), there are seven major Jewish holidays
where those who follow the faith are prohibited to work. That's an extra 12 days' leave
they'll need to take for religious reasons. If your employee is Muslim
, they'll take around eight religious holidays
But how does this affect your company? And what are your employee's rights with regards to religious holidays
Warning: Your company's leave policy can't discriminate against employees on religious grounds!
To ensure your company's leave policy doesn't violate the anti-discrimination clauses in the Bill of Rights
and Employment Equity Act
, you need to ensure your company makes 'reasonable accommodations for religious groups or amends employment policies and practices to recognise religious practices of the major religious groups,' advises the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management
But – and it's a BIG 'but' – what's considered 'reasonable accommodation' is entirely up to you, your Employment Equity
(EE) Committee and your company's corporate culture. According to the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management,
you have three options…
Three ways your leave policy can avoid religious discrimination
Option #1: Let your employee take annual leave for religious holidays
If the cost of allowing employees to take paid religious holidays
is too high and complex for your company, your leave policy
should allow employees to take annual leave if they wish to observe a religious holiday.
This should be available to all employees, regardless of their religion.
Option #2: Allocate additional leave days for religious holidays
If you feel that you need to provide a certain amount of paid time off for religious holidays
, consider making a determined number of additional days' paid leave available for all staff members to take during the year. This leave
is over and above
the minimum 15 days' annual leave
requirement and should be classified as 'special leave
' in your company's leave policy
Option 3: Adopt a religious culture for your company
If your company is owned or managed by people who determine that they wish to close the company to observe, say, Jewish religious holidays
, you need to grant these days to all their employees as paid holidays over and above
the public and annual leave days they're legally entitled to.
And don't forget, reminds The South African Labour Guide
, if you have a genuine operational reason for requiring an employee to work on a day your employee requires leave for religious purposes, you can refuse granting leave
for the day without it being seen as religious discrimination
Regardless of how you choose to let your employees take religious leave
, remember that it needs to be clearly outlined in your company's leave policy
and employment contract and must be fair to all employees, no matter what their religion is.