Cherfi v G4S Security Services Ltd UKEAT/0379/10

Mr Cherfi who was a security guard, was refused permission to travel to Friday prayers at a Mosque in Finsbury Park as the client required all security officers to remain on site during their shifts.  He was offered a prayer room on site or had the option of working Saturday and Sunday rather than Friday both of which he refused.  He claimed nevertheless that the requirement for him to remain at work on Friday lunch times constituted indirect religious discrimination.  His claim was rejected.  He had refused a variety of arrangements offered to accommodate his requirements and G4S would be in danger of a financial penalty or of losing its contract if a full complement of security staff was not on site on Fridays.   

Mr Cherfi appealed arguing that the tribunal had failed to balance properly the discriminatory effect on him with the reasonable needs of his employer.  The EAT dismissed his appeal.  It held that G4S had carried out the necessary balancing act.  The case was not an example of costs alone being used to justify discrimination.  The requirement for security guards to remain onsite was objectively justified to avoid a potential breach of contract.  

Key point:  If an employer offers its employees several alternative arrangements to avoid discrimination then it may be able to justify any subsequent discrimination irrespective of the cost consideration, but the competing interests do have to be balanced.