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Religious HR - refusal to allow attendance at mosque

BY Donald MacKinnon
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

Most employers will be aware, and have experience, of accommodating the religious and cultural needs of staff whether that is in respect of time off for attending religious services, provision of prayer rooms, adjusting uniform policies and the like.

Employees do not however have an absolute right to have their beliefs and practices accommodated by their employer and tribunals are expected to carry out a balancing exercise between the personal needs of the employee and the needs of the business. As the recent case of Cherfi v G4S Security Services Ltd shows, the tribunal will not automatically side with the employee. In this case, the Claimant was employed as a security guard on a site run by G4S on behalf of a client. The client required that a certain number of guards remained on site throughout the whole of their shifts. The Claimant, a practising Muslim, was refused permission to leave the site to attend his mosque on a Friday in the middle of his shift. He claimed indirect HR. Both the tribunal and the EAT rejected his claim. The Company's position was that they were bound by their client's requirements in respect of the number of guards on site; the client had previously made it clear that the continuance of the contract was in danger if these requirements were not adhered to. It was not practical for another guard to be hired simply to cover a gap in the Claimant's shift. Further, the Company had offered the Claimant the option of swapping his Friday shift for a weekend shift but this option had been rejected by the Claimant.

While there was no dispute that the Claimant had been subjected to a detriment by the Company in failing to allow him time off to attend mosque, the requirement to remain on site was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate needs of the business. The claim was dismissed.


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