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High Court rules that Christians can't refuse to work on Sundays

A High Court judge has ruled that Christians have no right to decline working on a Sunday as it is not a core component of the Christian faith.

An Employment Appeals Tribunal has this week told Celestina Mba, a Christian children's worker for Merton Council (South West London), that her employer was justified in not accommodating her Christian observance of Sundays.

Mba claimed it was agreed that she would not have to work on Sundays in accordance with her Christian beliefs, however the council changed the arrangement after she commenced her employment, saying that the arrangement was only temporary.

Mba said she found herself constantly allocated Sunday shifts and threatened with disciplinary measures unless she agreed to compromise her church commitments, meaning she had no alternative but to resign from the job she loved.

The care worker launched an unsuccessful legal claim in February 2012 and this week lost her appeal in the High Court.

Justice Langstaff upheld the lower tribunal's ruling, which said it was relevant that other Christians did not ask for Sundays off.

The fact that some Christians were prepared to work on Sundays meant it was not protected, the court said.

The senior judge said that a rule imposed by an employer which affected nearly every Christian would have a greater discriminatory impact than one which only affected a few.

He added that there was evidence that many Christians work on Sundays and this was relevant in "weighing" the impact of the employers' rule, and the earlier decision did not involve an error of law.

Chair of Merton's children's trust at Merton Council, Yvette Stanley, said it did its best to allow religious practice but also had a duty to meet the needs of the disabled children for whom it cares.

She said: "We are pleased with the outcome of this second tribunal. Staff recruited in the respite care service are advised that it is by its nature a weekend service."