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Muslim Staff at Marks and Spencer Can Refuse to Sell Alcohol and Pork
Muslim staff working for Marks & Spencer have been given permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products
Its policy decision has highlighted a split among the big food retailers over whether religious staff should be excused certain jobs.
In contrast to M&S, Sainsbury’s said it had issued official guidelines that stated there was no reason why staff who did not drink alcohol or eat pork for religious reasons could not handle the goods.
The advice followed consultations with religious groups, said a spokesman.
Tesco said it treated each case on its merits, but said it “made no sense” to employ staff on a till who refused to touch certain items for religious reasons.
Asda said it would not deploy Muslims on tills who objected to handling alcohol, while Morrisons, which is based in Bradford where there is a large Muslim community, said it had widespread experience of dealing with the issue and would “respect and work around anyone’s wishes not to handle specific products for religious or cultural reasons”.
At M&S, Muslim staff who do not wish to handle alcohol or pork have been told they can politely request that customers choose another till at which to pay.
At one of its stores in central London last week, customers waiting with goods that included pork or alcohol were told by a Muslim checkout worker to wait until another till became available. The assistant was extremely apologetic at having to ask customers to wait.
One customer, who declined to be named, said: “I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available.
“I was taken aback. I was a bit surprised. I’ve never come across that before.”
Customers trying to buy alcoholic drinks for Christmas were also asked to wait.
An M&S spokesman said: “We recognise that some of our employees practise religions that restrict the food or drink they can handle, or that mean they cannot work at certain times.
“M&S promotes an environment free from discrimination and so, where specific requests are made, we will always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, whilst ensuring high levels of customer service.”
The policy applies throughout its 700-plus stores. The spokesman said the policy of tolerance applied to other religions, so, for example, Christians who did not want to work on Sundays and religious Jews who chose not to work on Saturdays would also be excused. “This is something we decide on a case-by-case basis,” the spokesman added.
Sainsbury’s policy is set out in a booklet called The Little Book of Faith, which was issued by its human-resources department.
A spokesman said: “We have guidelines in place that set out the requirements and beliefs of different religions, which we have previously discussed and agreed with religious organisations and community groups.
“We treat everyone fairly, so although our colleagues on tills or replenishing stock will be asked to handle alcohol and meat, we will always work closely with individuals to ensure we are inclusive and fair to all.”
Source: The Telegraph