French firms see rising religious demands at work, study says

May 28, 2013

(An employee at the counter of Beurger King Muslim, or BKM, in Clichy-sous-Bois, a suburb east of Paris, August 8, 2005. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)

Close to half the staff managers at companies in French urban areas have seen problems arising from religious demands by employees and expect them to increase in future, according to a new study issued on Tuesday.

Listing faith-related problems, the new study said some men refused to take orders from a woman boss or shake hands with women and some refused to handle alcohol or pork products.

Other problems include employees wanting to pray or wear religious garb at work. Some employees try to impose their religious standards on colleagues, such as preventing non-observant Muslims from eating at work during Ramadan.

Smaller towns and rural areas had far fewer problems, the study said. Fewer than five percent of human resources managers in the western region of Brittany reported any difficulties.

The survey, conducted by university researchers in Rennes and the international recruitment agency Randstad, was released as French lawmakers prepare new legislation extending strict public service bans on religious garb at work to some private firms.

President Francois Hollande has also launched an official campaign to ensure the legal separation of church and state is fully respected in France.

“These initial results show the issue of religion at work exists and is not a marginal question,” concluded the study, which said 43 percent of staff managers saw faith-related work problems and 41 percent expected to encounter more in future.

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