This case discusses employers justifications when looking to refuse an employee’s request for a certain working pattern.
Mr Cherfi, a Muslim security guard, left work every Friday lunch time to attend prayers at his local mosque. This was allowed by his supervisor from 2003 to 2007, until Mr Cherfi was transferred to a new site.
The new site was a new client of G4S’s whom came with a contract that, while on shift, all security staff must remain on site. Therefore Mr Cherfi would not be able to continue to leave the premises every Friday to attend mosque. There was a prayer room on site which G4S were happy for Mr Cherfi to use during his shift. Further G4S proposed a change in his working pattern so that he could have every Friday off to attend mosque, but he would instead work at the weekend.
This was not acceptable to Mr Cherfi who subsequently refused to work at the weekend and further stopped working on the Friday, taking each one off as annual leave.
At Tribunal, Mr Cherfi claimed indirect discrimination, as a practicing Muslim this new contract put him at a disadvantage by not being able to attend mosque. To Counteract this, G4S argued that they had no choice, but to refuse to allow Mr Cherfi to attend mosque whilst on shift due to financial issues, as it would have resulted in them losing the contract.
The Tribunal ruled in G4S’s favour and ruled that they had acted proportionally to achieve a legitimate business aim, i.e. to allow the business contract to remain in operation; they had not discriminated against Mr Cherfi.
This case demonstrated that employers can put the operational needs of the business first, as long as they can prove this, and demonstrate that it is proportionate to the employee’s request. However this is not suggesting that this can be used as a smoke screen to refuse any requests of this nature. Employers must show that they have used this as a legitimate means, i.e. having first exhausted all other avenues available.
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