Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, religious or otherwise, but how far does this extend to the workplace? A recent decision in Cherfi v G4S Security Services Ltd, saw the Employment Appeals Tribunal uphold a Tribunal decision that a security services firm had not indirectly discriminated against an employee by refusing permission for him to attend Friday prayers at a local mosque.
The firm had just won a new contract that specified the number of guards to be present on the client's site during shifts. This meant that the previous practice of allowing the muslim employee time off to attend Friday prayers was unsustainable; financial penalties and the loss of the contract meant that the time off practice had to end. The employer did offer to move the Friday shift to a weekend to allow the employee Friday's off but this was rejected.
So whilst the employer had applied a "provision, criterion or practice" that was potentially indirectly discriminatory to the claimant as a Muslim, it was a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim", that is the operation of the employer's business.
This was first published in July 2011