Dismissed Appeal On Christian Worker ‘A Step Forward’

Judges Recognise Importance Of Sunday Observance


The Court of Appeal has rejected a Christian care worker’s appeal related to her legal battle regarding being forced to work on Sundays by her employer.

Celestina Mba, 58, asked appeal judges to overturn an Employment Tribunal decision which dismissed her claim of constructive dismissal against the London Borough of Merton in relation to her employment at a respite centre run by the Borough.

She stated that her employment was on the understanding she would not have to work on Sundays and she claimed she was forced to resign after employers went back on the agreement.

While the appeal judges stated the Tribunal was incorrect to suggest that Sunday observance was not core to Mrs Mba’s beliefs, they suggested such concerns were peripheral to the appeal which focused on whether the Tribunal’s decision was proportionate and balanced in relation to both sides.

They stated that the London Borough of Merton had no alternative but to ask Mrs Mba to work on Sunday in accordance with her contract.

Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre said that while Mrs Mba did not win, the judgment “was a big step forward for proper treatment of Christians” and “an important victory”.

Expert Opinion
The real issue in the case was whether the Borough could show a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, of finding employees to fill its work rotas on Sundays.

"Whilst the Court of Appeal rejected Ms Mba’s appeal, its acceptance that Sunday observance was core to her faith is significant for Christians.

"The Court Of Appeal considered that earlier findings by the Tribunal were wrong because they did not consider that Mrs Mba’s observance of the Sabbath was a core component of her Christian faith, whereas the Court of Appeal considered that working on Sundays was unacceptable for some Christians.

"The first point for employers is to consider whether the contract of employment has provision for Sunday working.

"Religious requests should only be accepted where it is fair and practicable to all. Employers should be able to refuse a request, if it would impact on efficiency, viability of the business or result in discrimination against other employees."
Ami Naru, Associate