Eid holiday rules on taking time off work for Eid ul Adha and Eid ul Fitr

Worshippers gather for Eid prayers at Green Lane Masjid in Birmingham
-Credit: (Image: PA)

There are two main Eid festivals in the Islamic calendar and public holidays are usually announced for each one in Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Pakistan. Eid ul Fitr, taking place at the end of Ramadan, is the first of the celebrations and is followed later by Eid ul Adha in the 12th and final month of the year.

There are no bank holidays given for Eid in the UK so employees are likely to ask for time off to observe these festivals. But the dates of Islamic events such as Eid are not known until shortly beforehand, because a verified moon sighting is needed to declare the start of any given month.

That means employers are likely to receive last-minute requests for annual leave. But what is the employment law around Eid holidays?

READ MORE: Eid ul Adha 2024 live moonsighting announcements for UK, Saudi and rest of world

What is the law on taking time off work for Eid?

Dates of the Eid festivals are not confirmed until a few days before, so employers may find themselves receiving annual leave requests at short notice. This can create a tricky situation for businesses trying to plan staff rotas.

Eid ul Fitr takes place right at the start of a month, just a day or two after the date is confirmed by a moon sighting. There is more notice for Eid ul Adha, which is on the 10th day of a month so the date is known 10 days ahead of the festival taking place. The last-minute nature of these events is a key reason that Saudi Arabia has a pre-determined national calendar with the main religious festivals already allocated a date based on astronomical forecasts.

UK employment law experts at Peninsula advise: "Eid is an important celebration for Muslims and it is likely employers will receive annual leave requests for those who wish to observe this festival. Employers should deal with holiday requests through their normal procedures and any company policies. It is important to act reasonably and fairly, following the normal system to determine whether the request can be approved.

"The law states that employees have to give a notice period of double the length of their holiday to their employer to request holiday i.e. six days' notice for three days' leave. Employers can also extend this notice period through their contractual holiday policy. Where the employee fails to give the required notice, the employer is not under an obligation to consider the request."

What happens if your Eid holiday request is refused?

Peninsula says employers should give full consideration to holiday requests that are for the purpose of observing Eid. But if the request has to be refused, bosses should discuss this with the employee and see if any alternatives can be agreed.

It explained: "It may be the case that the holiday request cannot be accommodated because of the needs of the business. It may be necessary to refuse leave where, for example, the workplace will be understaffed or the request is during a period of high customer demand. The Working Time Regulations allow employers to refuse holiday requests by giving employees the required notice. The required notice is equal to the amount of leave requested so if an employee requests a week off the employer has to give a minimum of one week's notice to refuse the request."

Bethanie Booth at Napthens Solicitors says that if time off cannot be given, employers need to consider flexible options. This can include:

  • Flexibility on start time. Allowing a late start will enable employees to attend morning prayers.

  • Flexibility on finish time. Allowing an early finish will enable employees to attend Eid gatherings with friends and family.

  • Flexibility on break times. Allowing flexibility with breaks will enable the employee to perform their prayers throughout the day.

  • A quiet and appropriate place for employees to carry out prayers while at work.

Ms Booth says Eid provides an opportunity for employers "to encourage staff engagement, to educate staff and to improve their understanding of different religions across the workforce." She says that if businesses recognise celebrations and holidays for other religions, such as at Easter or Christmas, it's a good time to consider what they can do for other festivities such as Eid.

Firms should try to be co-operative and adaptable with last-minute requests and allow for deviation from their usual holiday policy which requires staff to book in advance, she said. She added: "If employees, for whatever reason, have insufficient holidays to cover their absence for the requested religious holiday, we would encourage employers to consider granting a period of unpaid leave."

In addition, companies should be pro-active and encourage workers to let managers know if they want to take annual leave for Eid so that they can plan staffing and arrange cover, she said.

What's the best practice for employers on Eid holiday requests?

Ms Booth issued the following guidance on best practice for employers on Eid holidays:

  • Agree to last-minute requests for holidays or unpaid leave where possible;

  • Allow for flexibility among the workforce; and

  • Communicate openly with all employees.

She added: "We would also encourage employers to maintain a consistent approach to support members of staff who are observing a religious holiday to ensure that the business is not discriminating against members of staff who wish to observe religious holidays."

Similarly, the Peninsula law firm warned: "Applying a fair and consistent holiday request policy across the workforce will not constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, however, it can be classed as indirect discrimination because the policy applies to all but puts those of the Muslim faith at a particular disadvantage. This makes it crucial that employers have a genuine, objective business reason for refusing in order to objectively justify any indirect discrimination complaints."