Religious Observance Policy


Policy Statement

It is the Policy of Seneca College that all employees shall work in an inclusive teaching, learning and working environment that respects and values the diversity of faith of our employees.

Recognizing the College's commitment to its students, it is understood that all requests for leave of absence required for religious observance will be considered and scheduled to minimize disruption to the academic programs, services and operational requirements of the College. The College will accommodate, wherever possible, absences for the purpose of religious observance.

The College will implement such measures as, but not limited to, rescheduling work hours, timetables, shifts, work schedules or assignments in order to permit the employee to fully participate in their religious observance without loss of pay. Where employees are covered by a Collective Agreement, the union will be involved.

This policy recognized that absences for religious observance are included in the Collective Agreements, Terms and Conditions of Employment for Administrative Staff and the Ontario Human Rights Code as a shared responsibility. As such, the College recognizes that the parties are obligated to consider all options, which may or may not be included in the Collective Agreements to accommodate an employee's leave for religious observances.

Requests for absences for the purpose of religious observances, with or without pay, will be approved for those days identified by the Ontario Public Service's List of Religious Holy Days and/or in circumstances where the employee demonstrates the sincerity of the practice or belief, having a nexus to religion, honestly held, and objectively or subjectively obligatory or customary.

Administrative Guidelines

  1. Where an employee requires time off from work for religious observance, requests shall be submitted in writing, a minimum of 60 days in advance of the date of the religious observance, to their immediate supervisor. The request must state the name of the observance, date being requested and the religious affiliation.
  2. Upon receipt of any request for a leave of absence for religious observance, and prior to approval, the supervisor is required to discuss the request with Human Resources Services, Employee and Labour Relations, to ensure fairness and consistency in the application of College policy.
  3. For the purpose of approving leaves of absence for religious observances, the College may consider some or all of the following factors:
    • day and date requested
    • the number of employees who request the leave
    • the number of days of leave sought
    • duties of the employees seeking the leave
    • potential disruptions to the academic programs, services and operational requirements o potential risks to others
    • the granting of the leave should not disadvantage or advantage the requesting employees over others
    • the reasonable scope of celebration over and above the performance of religious rites (i.e. they must be a legitimate component of religious celebration)
    • the request is bona fide
    • the size of the functional administrative unit (School or Department)
    • the employee must respond reasonably and in good faith in implementing the appropriate accommodation
    The above factors are general guidelines and other factors may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Requests for leave of absence for religious observance will not be unreasonably denied. The following options will be reviewed as possible ways to permit the employee to participate in religious leave while avoiding loss of pay:
    • make up the time at a later date when the employee would not normally be scheduled to work and be paid at the employee's regular rate for the substituted shift/hours
    • subject to Collective Agreements and operational requirements, an employee could be scheduled to work on a Saturday or Sunday where these are not days when the employee is normally scheduled to work and the employee would be paid the regular rate for hours worked
    • where operationally feasible, switch shifts/hours of work with another employee in the work unit
    • where possible, the employee's shift schedule could be modified and/or adjusted (e.g. compressed work week)
    • use outstanding vacation day(s) or lieu time (where accrued) to be paid for the day(s) off for religious observances
    The above options are guidelines and other options may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Where options for employees to make-up pay when granting religious leave may impact on Collective Agreement provisions, the union will be involved in determining the option to be used.
  5. Where an employee is covered by a Collective Agreement that permits a grant of religious leave with pay in certain circumstances, paid leave will also be an option in the appropriate circumstances.
  6. Contract administrative staff, part-time and sessional academic staff, and part-time, contract, Appendix D or G support staff employees are not eligible for paid leaves of absence. However, in accordance with this Policy, requests for time-off for religious observances will be considered and, where there is a minimum of disruption to the educational programs, services and/or operational assignments, etc. so that the employee will avoid the loss of pay. Where this is not feasible, the employee will be granted leave without pay for the purpose of the religious observance.
  7. There shall be no substitution of a work day and/or shift if the date of the religious observance requested falls on a weekend or a day where the employee is not scheduled to work.
  8. All leaves of absence, including those approved for religious observance, are to be recorded on the Attendance Tracking System, as are all other leaves, such as vacation, professional development, jury duty, etc.

The Office of the Executive Director of Human Resources is responsible for the administration and communication of this Policy.


  • Ontario Human Rights Code
  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Support Staff Collective Agreement
  • Academic Employees Collective Agreement
  • Terms & Conditions of Employment for Administrative Staff

Maintained by: Human Resources