Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ruling on Christian's Sunday shifts Christian woman fighting for the right not to be forced by an employer to work on Sundays learns the outcome of the latest round of her legal battle today.

Children's care worker Celestina Mba, from London, has asked Court of Appeal judges for a landmark ruling in her favour. 

Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Vos will announce their decision in London. 

Mrs Mba, 58, a Baptist Christian and mother-of-three, says she should be free to obey the Fourth Commandment in the Bible and rest and pray on the Sabbath. 

She wants the appeal judges to overturn an employment appeal tribunal (EAT) decision dismissing her claim for constructive dismissal against the London Borough of Merton. 

Mrs Mba says she was working with autistic children at a respite centre run by the borough on the understanding that she would not have to work on Sundays, but after a time her employers reneged on the agreement. 

She said she told her bosses before accepting the job that keeping Sunday as a day of rest and prayer was an issue of faith. 

For two years, her beliefs were accommodated, but then she was told she would have to work full weekend shifts and was left with no option but to resign. 

Her claim for constructive dismissal failed before the EAT partly on the grounds that observing the Sabbath was not a ''core component'' of the Christian faith. 

At a hearing in October, Mrs Mba's counsel, Paul Diamond, argued the EAT had misconstrued her belief and wrongly interpreted the fact that ''some'' Christians will not work on the Sabbath in a way that interfered with her individual right under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights to ''manifest her religious belief''. 

Merton council lawyers argued that the employment tribunal which first dismissed her claim was ''plainly and unarguably right'' and the EAT was justified in upholding its decision. 

Mrs Mba, who is now a childcare worker with a company which allows her to have Sundays off, stresses that she is not attempting to force her beliefs on anyone else, but argues an employer has a duty to ''reasonably accommodate'' the beliefs of a Christian employee. 

If she wins her appeal, it could establish new religious rights allowing Christian workers generally to avoid Sunday working.

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