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In the recent case of Fhima v Travel Jigsaw Ltd,  Ms Fhima applied for a job with Travel Jigsaw.  During her interview, F explained that she observed Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest) and therefore, could not work Saturdays.  

She did, however, offer to work every Sunday as an alternative to requiring her to work a Saturday.  Travel Jigsaw told her that they could not offer her the job, because they needed people flexible enough to work Saturdays.  F claimed that she had been indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of her religious belief.  She was successful and was awarded £16,700 by the Employment Tribunal.  
Employers often find indirect discrimination difficult to understand.  Indirect discrimination arises where a provision or practice is applied to everyone but puts a particular group at a disadvantage.  Here the requirement to work Saturdays put Jewish people at a disadvantage because of their religious beliefs.  So what lessons can be learnt from this?

  • Employers should remember that discrimination rules apply to applicants as well as existing employees.
  • The request to work a different work pattern (as in this case), need not be granted, but it must be considered fairly and reasonably with an open mind.  Here the employer did not consider whether the offer to work Sundays instead would be practical, they just ignored the request.
  • The real killer point was that the requirement to work Saturdays was not in fact applied to everyone.  The employer associated an inability to work on Saturday due to religious beliefs with inflexibility and that was discriminatory.

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