In this case a Muslim employee (“C”) worked as a security guard. His employer was required to have a specified number of security guards on site at all times or it was at risk of losing the contract. C was refused permission to leave the site on Friday lunchtimes to attend Friday prayers at a Mosque.

His employer provided other options including using a prayer room on site and giving C the option to work Saturdays or Sundays instead of Fridays, but C refused them all. C claimed that requiring him to remain on site on Friday lunchtimes amounted to indirect religious discrimination.

The Tribunal dismissed the claim, holding that although C was placed at a disadvantage by not being allowed to attend Friday prayers, his employer would be at risk of financial penalties or losing the contract without the full quota of security guards being present.

C had been provided with a variety of alternative options but had declined them all. His employer’s refusal of time off work to attend prayer was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim i.e. meeting the operational needs of the business.

Upon appeal by C, the EAT upheld the Tribunal’s decision and held (obiter) that an employer can rely upon cost alone in order to justify a policy that would otherwise be indirectly discriminatory.

(Cherfi v G4S Security Services Ltd)