CANTERBURY, England (RNS) The British government plans to investigate whether other Jews were denied employment benefits after an Orthodox Jew who refused to work on the Sabbath won a landmark appeal.
Jacob Slinger, a 19-year-old who lives in Greater Manchester, won an appeal against the Department of Works and Pensions after he’d been denied a jobseeker’s allowance of 56.80 pounds ($86.67) a week because he refused to work on Saturdays. He told the tribunal he had to rely on the generosity of his grandmother to survive.
After listening to his case, tribunal judge David Hewitt ordered the DWP to pay Slinger 1,500 pounds ($2,288) in benefits and called on other Jewish people who had been denied benefits to come forward.
Now the DWP plans to investigate, and a top legal rights lawyer believes it could lead to legal claims of religious discrimination from members of other religions.
Jason Coppel, a senior lawyer and an expert in human rights law, said in a statement: “If a job center policy is acted upon which queries Jews who cannot work on a Saturday, it could lead to legal claims of indirect discrimination on grounds of religious belief, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Lawyers and social workers believe this is the first case of its kind in Britain — but probably not the last.
Regulations require job seekers to work for a minimum of 35 hours a week.
Slinger told the tribunal he was ready to work 53 hours a week, but not on the Sabbath.
“Mr. Slinger has demonstrated that, even within the restraints he has set himself, he has reasonable prospects of securing employment and he is both available for and actively seeking work,” wrote the judge. “If people have been turned down for these reasons then they should make an appeal to this tribunal.”
Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said Jews are right to appeal.
“We Muslims find that nearly all British companies make provisions for people with a religious mindset,” Mogra said.
Anil Bhanot, managing director of the Hindu Council UK, said his religion marked few religious events other than Diwali (the Festival of Lights) and that British companies often allowed the followers time off.
Like Jews, Seventh-day Adventists are distinguished by their observance of the Sabbath. Victor Hulbert, communications and media director of the Adventists in the U.K., said: “We support Mr. Slinger 100 percent.”