Merton Council Wins Court Case Over Sunday Working

Local care worker loses Court of Appeal hearing

A Christian woman has lost her fight against Merton Borough Council over her right not to work on Sundays.

Celestina Mba, from Mitcham, lost her job as a children's care worker with the council after they said they couldn't guarantee she wouldn't have to work Sunday shifts.

Ms Mba, aged 58, argued she should be free to obey the Bible's Fourth Commandment to rest and pray on the Sabbath and that an employer had a duty to "reasonably accommodate" the religious beliefs of an employee.

Ms Mba had already lost a case for constructive dismissal against Merton Council over her job at Brightwell Children's Centre in Morden, and sought to have the decision of that employment tribunal overturned.

But appeal judges Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Vos, while ruling that the tribunal had to some extent erred in law, unanimously agreed that this did not mean that Mrs Mba's appeal should be allowed.

Since leaving Merton Council, Ms Mba has found a new job in Surbiton, in which she is allowed to take Sundays and Mondays off.

Leader of Merton Council Councillor Stephen Alambritis said after the court decision: "We are pleased with the outcome of this case. Children in local authority care who have severe disabilities and who need weekend support, and their families who rely on this support, can feel reassured that their children's care and support will be consistent. It is vital that these children are looked after by carers who are familiar with their needs and are available to provide round the clock care over the weekend.

"Wherever possible, we accommodate our employees' needs and requirements. Councils like Merton provide many services during the week and at weekends, and we work to rotas to ensure we have suitable staff on duty at all times and that the rotas are fair and lawful for employees."

December 6, 2013