EMPLOYEES who do not wish to work on Sunday because of their
Christian faith have no protection in law, a High Court judge has
Mr Justice Langstaff, president of the Employment Appeal
Tribunal, upheld an earlier decision by a London Employment
Tribunal that Sunday rest was not a "core component" of Christian
belief (News, 2
He rejected an appeal from Celestina Mba, who claims that she
was constructively dismissed by Merton Council from her po- sition
as a care-worker at Bright-well Children's Home, because it
required her to work on Sundays.
Ms Mba, who is on the ministry team of a Baptist church, says
that managers agreed that she would not work on Sundays when she
was appointed in 2007, but changed their position after she started
work, even though other colleagues were prepared to work on
Sundays, and she had offered to accept lower pay or work night
shifts on Saturdays.
The Equalities Act 2010 places a duty on employers to make
"reasonable adjustments" to ensure that they do not discriminate on
the grounds of religion or belief. The Employment Tribunal ruled,
however, that "the belief that Sunday was a day of rest was not a
'core' belief of the Christian faith."
In his appeal judgment, Mr Justice Langstaff said: "If [the
Tribunal] had stopped there, it would have been offensive and an
error of law, but we do not believe that was what the tribunal was
"'Core component' might be thought to be an attempt by the
Tribunal to evaluate what was important in the Christian faith. It
is a very different matter to ask how many adherents believe in a
particular tenet of faith." A policy "affecting nearly every
Christian would have a greater discriminatory impact than one which
only affected a few Christians".
He said evidence showed that "many Christians will work on a
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian
Legal Centre, which has supported Ms Mba's claim, said that the
judgment created an "unrealistic test". It meant that "people like
Celestina who wish to respect Sunday as a day of rest and worship
will be forced out of the workplace."