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Islamic Prison Chaplain Fails in Discrimination Claim

An Islamic prison chaplain who complained that Christian colleagues were generally paid more than him due to their greater length of service has had his race and religious discrimination claims dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

PrisonUntil 2002, the only chaplains employed by the prison service were Christians. The pay bands applicable to the chaplaincy were heavily weighted towards length of service, with the result that Christian chaplains were still to be found more strongly represented in the upper echelons of pay than Muslim or Asian colleagues.

The chaplain, who joined the prison service in 2004 and whose creditable conduct had seen him rise through the pay scales, argued that he had been disadvantaged by reason of his faith and race. Statistics showed that those above him in the pay bands were predominantly white Christians who had joined the service prior to 2002.

Whilst accepting that the chaplain had been subjected to a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) that put him at a particular disadvantage, the Employment Tribunal (ET) rejected his claims of indirect discrimination on the basis that his employer – the Secretary of State for Justice – had established that the PCP was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

In dismissing the chaplain’s appeal, the EAT found that, when performing the necessary comparative exercise, the ET had erred by including in the relevant pool chaplains who had joined the prison service prior to 2002. The chaplain did not dispute that he had been treated no differently than white Christian chaplains who joined the service after 2002.

The pay scales of prison chaplains were ‘inherently complex’ and the Department of Justice (DoJ) was in the process of reforming them with a view to simplification and reducing the emphasis on length of service. That process had been stalled by the introduction of a freeze on public sector pay. However, the EAT ruled that, even had indirect discrimination been established, the steps being taken by the DoJ meant that any difference in treatment was justified and proportionate.