This post was written by Lee Howard.
A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal decision, Cherfi v G4S Security Services Ltd , deals with indirect religious discrimination and offers employers further guidance on how they might deal the issue of time off work for reasons concerning religion. It may also aid those seeking to justify ostensibly discriminatory practices on the grounds of cost.
What happened in this case?
The employer, G4S, was bound under the terms of one of its client contracts to provide a prescribed number of security guards on site at all times during operational hours. The employee, Mr Cherfi, was a Muslim who frequently left the client’s site on Friday lunchtimes to attend prayers at a Mosque. G4S informed Mr Cherfi in 2008 that he would no longer be able to leave the site at lunchtimes, as G4S would be in breach of its contract if the requisite number of guards were not present at the client’s site.
G4S made a number of efforts to accommodate Mr Cherfi, offering him an amended work pattern of Monday to Thursday, with the option of working Saturday or Sunday so that he would not suffer financially. However, Mr Cherfi did not wish to work at weekends, and discussions did not result in agreement.
Thereafter, Mr Cherfi ensured that he was not present at work on Fridays, by either taking sick leave, annual leave or authorised unpaid leave. When G4S expressed discontent with this situation, he brought a claim for indirect discrimination, arguing that Muslims were put at a particular disadvantage by the employer’s requirement for all security guards to remain on site on Friday lunchtimes.