Accommodating Religious Diversity in the Workplace

Can I take time off for religious holidays that aren’t on the Christian calendar?

It’s a question that comes up frequently in employment law, reflecting the diversity of faiths in the workplace.

In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 allows employees to work on the public holiday and substitute another day in its place.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code also mandates that employers accommodate employees’ religious practices — up to the point of undue hardship. This includes allowing unpaid time off for religious observances that may not coincide with the Christian calendar. However, the religious requirement rather than preference must be established, and it can only conflict with the employer’s operational requirements up to the point of undue hardship.

To facilitate a smoother process, it’s advisable to make this request as early as possible to ensure your employer has sufficient time to consider the request and arrange accommodations, if applicable, without disrupting business operations.