Chester 01244 405555

Grosvenor Court
Foregate Street Chester
Cheshire CH1 1HG
DX: 19990 Chester

Shrewsbury 01743 443 043

Lakeside House
Oxon Business Park
Shrewsbury SY3 5HJ
DX: 148563 Shrewsbury 14

Manchester 0844 800 8346

Pall Mall Court
61-67 King Street
Manchester M2 4PD

Send us a message
Our Offices

M&S apologises to customers refused sale due to religious beliefs of employee

10th February, 2014

M&S has been forced to apologise to its customers following substantial criticism on an employee’s refusal to sell alcohol and pork products due to religious beliefs.

In a Central London branch of M&S, a customer reportedly tried to buy a bottle of Champagne but was told by the checkout assistant that they would need to use another till and that, in apologising, she could not serve the customer.

Soon after the reporting, M&S were hounded with backlash via several Facebook pages, including one named “Boycott Marks and Spencer”, as well as TV and radio broadcasts commenting on the matter.

M&S state that they have a policy in place whereby an employee can be placed in a different department if their religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle. They admitted and apologised that in this case, they hadn’t acted in accordance with their own policies, leaving the Muslim employee in the food department to refuse sale to the customer.

M&S’ apology hasn’t washed with disgruntled customers, who have categorised the policy as “ridiculous” and “PC gone mad”. Further, leaders of Asda and John Lewis have confirmed that they have no such policy in place and that M&S’ approach was “one stage beyond common sense”. Although they did recognise that if a similar issue arose with one of their employees, they would deal with it on a case by case basis, they questioned whether members of staff should have the right to refuse to serve customers in any event.

Perhaps more worryingly, the case has raised the question of how far this issue really could go. Via the Facebook page, one customer questioned whether an atheist worker will refuse the sale of hot cross buns at Easter and said that M&S had created “division and hatred within our communities”. Further, theoretically, a Muslim worker could refuse the sale of any meat products or items such as desserts containing small amounts of alcohol, surely this is a step too far.

The key employment law issue raised here is the failure by M&S to have robust policies in place which they abide by. Further, it is possible that M&S didn’t provide training to employees in relation to the policy and as such the checkout assistant was left to handle products against her religious beliefs, when in fact the policy allowed her to work in a different department.

For a free review of your existing policies, or advice on implementing policies and providing training to employees, please contact Claire Brook on 01244 405575 or send and email to [email protected].

You might also be interested in...

Experienced HR leader joins Aaron & Partners LLP

15th May, 2018

Experienced HR leader joins Aaron & Partners LLP Law firm with offices in Chester and Shrewsbury appoints Kate Robertson to drive HR strategy for more than 120 staff and to support the company’s growth Chester law firm Aaron & Partners LLP has strengthened its senior leadership team with the appointment of an experienced human resources manager. Kate Robertson... Read More »

When you should NOT pay the bailiff…

24th April, 2018

Jan Chillery, Insolvency Partner at Aaron & Partners LLP, shares her experience and the reasons why we should be cautious before paying so-called “bailiffs” over the phone or online without vetting them first. My neighbour has told me that recently he had a CCJ (County Court Judgment) against him. A day or so later, he received a phone call... Read More »

Employee awarded 15 years back-pay

11th April, 2018

Jan Chillery, Insolvency Partner comments on the recent case of Mr A M Coletta v Bath Hill Court – Bournemouth Property Management Ltd UKEAT 0200 17 RN To read the Transcript of Proceedings in full please click here “This case highlights an important aspect of the Statute of Limitations which affects a wider field than employment claims. An... Read More »

Contact Us