EU/Religious holidays cannot be reserved specially for employees belonging to the particular religion in question. On 21 January in a ruling on an Austrian case, the CJEU declared that legislation that awarded extra remuneration to employees working on nationally recognized religious holiday provided they belonged to that religion in fact constituted direct discrimination on grounds of religion. Austria’s national legislation officially recognizes the Christian Good Friday as an official holiday. As such employees belonging to the Christian faiths are eligible for double normal remuneration rates if they work on the Good Friday holiday. However a non-Christian employee challenged this ‘discrimination’ in the national courts, which in turn went to the CJEU for a ruling on whether it was indeed discrimination or not. The CJEU held that national legislation, which only attributes a religious holiday to followers of that religion and not to followers of other religions and which only awards additional compensation to employees working on the particular holiday who are followers of that particular religion and not to others constituted direct discrimination on grounds of religion. According to the judges, until the Member State concerned has amended its legislation, Austrian private employer are obliged also to grant his other employees a public holiday on Good Friday, provided that the latter have sought prior permission from that employer to be absent from work on that day, and, consequently, to recognise that those employees are entitled to a payment in addition to their regular salary for work done on that day where the employer has refused to approve such a request.
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