EU to act on religion in the workplace

Under new EU laws which will come into force in December, a workplace must provide space for religious workers to pray, whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh or any other religion, writes the Sunday Times.

Workers will also be given time off to attend religious festivals and events.

The regulations - known as the employment equality rules - will allow Christians to refuse to work on a Sunday and Jews to refuse to work on a Saturday. Muslims will be entitled for time off to attend their annual festivals, known as Eid.

Some religious observances could become commonplace in the workplace.

The rules will allow Sikhs to carry a hidden ceremonial sword to work. Muslims will have to be given time off work for a pilgrimage to Mecca - which each Muslim is supposed to perform once in his or her life. Hindus must be allowed to shave their head as a sign of mourning and be allowed to scatter the ashes in the Ganges, in India - requiring a lengthy period off work.

The rules have already created confusion amongst employer groups. The Confederation of British Industry told the Sunday Times, "if you stop production at Christmas, should we be keeping our plant or offices open for non-Christians in the workplace?"