[Pounds Sterling]10,000 for Man Sacked over His Trip to Mecca; Payout to Muslim Who Went on Pilgrimage Could Lead to Flood of Religious Bias Claims

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Byline: CHRIS BROOKE

A MUSLIM cleaner sacked for going on a six-week pilgrimage to Mecca has won more than [pounds sterling] 10,000 compensation under new laws to prevent religious discrimination at work.

Mohammed Khan, 43, used up all his holiday entitlement and took a week's unpaid leave to make the trip, which all Muslims are supposed to do at least once in their lifetime.

But he was immediately suspended on his return then fired following a disciplinary hearing.

He took his bosses to a tribunal, which yesterday ruled that under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) regulations - which came into force in December 2003 - he had suffered indirect discrimination.

Mr Khan's victory is thought to be the first under the law and could have far-reaching implications for workers of all faiths who want to take time off on 'holy days'. Lawyers believe it could mean Christians forced to work on Christmas Day could take action.

And workers of other faiths could sue if their workplace is closed over Christmas and they have to use up holiday time for a festival they do not celebrate.

Anna Power, who represented Mr Khan, said: 'This case clearly sends out a warning to companies that they need to be aware of what their obligations are now.

'There are more things than just holidays they need to take into account, it's anything relating to employees' beliefs.' The tribunal heard how Mr Khan, who was born in Pakistan and has lived in Bradford with his family for many years, cleaned buses for Leeds-based NIC Hygiene.

The firm claimed the trip was unauthorised, but Mr Khan told the hearing that he had spoken to his line manager about the possibility of taking a long holiday.

On the advice of his union, he put his request in writing four months before he was due to depart.

When the company did not get back to him, he spoke again to his line manager, who said he could assume the request was agreed to unless he heard to the contrary. …