A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case, Cherfi v G4S Security Services Ltd, concerned a claimant called Mr Cherfi who worked as a security guard at one of his employer’s client’s sites. He was a practising Muslim but his employer refused him permission to leave the site on Friday lunchtimes to attend the mosque because the contract with its client required a specific number of security guards to remain on site throughout operating hours. Mr C was offered a variety of alternatives to meet his requirements but he refused them all.

Mr Cherfi made a claim for indirect religious discrimination which was rejected by the employment tribunal. He appealed on the grounds that the tribunal had failed to carry out the necessary balancing exercise between the reasonable needs of the employer and the discriminatory effect on the employee.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. It concluded that the tribunal had committed no such failure and upheld the tribunal’s decision that the requirement for Mr Cherfi to remain on site was objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely the operational needs of the business. This case provides a useful reminder of the balancing exercise that employers should undertake when making decisions of this nature, in this case the court found that the legitimate operational needs of the employer outweighed the religious needs of the employee. No doubt the fact that the employee had been offered several alternative options was a factor that assisted the court to find in the employer’s favour.