UK Employers Told It’s Okay to Offend Christians, But Not Non-Christians at Christmas

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A leading employer’s group in the UK says shutting the office down for the Christmas holiday may be seen as discriminatory by non-Christians, so employers should say they’re shutting down to cut costs because so many employees take off. But those companies that can’t shut for the holiday shouldn’t worry because Christians deserve no special privileges.

According to London’s Telegraph, the Employers Forum on Belief says non-Christians may resent the fact that Christians are given time off over Christmas while they have to use their own vacation time to celebrate their holidays. While saying there is no reason to avoid celebrating Christmas, employers should put up “seasonal” rather than religious decorations and try to win over staff by telling them it’s more cost-effective to shut down at the end of December.

“An extended Christmas closedown may therefore indirectly discriminate on the ground of religion or belief so employers should be clear as to the reasons why it is necessary which might include cost savings where the majority of staff will want to take holiday and costs can be saved by closing down completely,” the Forum suggests.

The Forum acknowledges that the “Christmas we know today is also built on many other traditions” and that doing away with public recognition of the holiday could be bad for “community relations.”
However, it suggests that employers be more sensitive to non-Christians by offering alternatives to office Christmas parties and by using seasonal themes for greeting cards and e-mails.

Strangely enough, while the Forum seems overly concerned with helping employers to avoid appearing to discriminate against non-Christians during Christmas, it goes on to tell employers that if they can’t shut down over Christmas, they shouldn’t worry about offending Christians.

“ . . . (T)ribunals have dismissed the notion that Christians have any privilege for time off for religious reasons.”

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