A challenge for employment lawyers


If faith schools are such a wonderful idea, let’s apply the principles elsewhere.


Dear Mr. Lawyer,

It was a pleasure to meet you and some of your fellow partners recently.

Thank you for participating in Kinky Pinky Oboe plc’s tender for legal services and for submitting such a comprehensive response.

As you will no doubt have gathered from the last ten months or so, Kinky Pinky Oboe’s procurement department has very stringent requirements and I realise this process must at times have seemed never-ending.  So I am grateful for all the helpful information your firm has provided during this process.  Thank you also for your patience during this time.

The tender process is now complete and I am delighted to inform you that your firm has been successful.  Your firm has been appointed to Kinky Pinky Oboe’s legal panel as our preferred supplier of employment advice.

As you know, Kinky Pinky Oboe is a FTSE 200 musical instruments company employing over 4,000 people in the United Kingdom.  This is an incredibly exciting time for Kinky Pinky Oboe as it breaks into new and emerging markets with its innovative products and services.

Following internal finance approval I can confirm we are now ready to provide your firm with our first set of instructions.

The CEO and founder of Kinky Pinky Oboe plc, Mustafa Singh, is a devout Christian and he wants the organisation to reflect these principles.  He has asked me to conduct a “root and branch” review of all our HR practices and related documentation to ensure Kinky Pinky Oboe has, as he describes it, a “Christian character”.  This is to cover HR policies, recruitment criteria, terms and conditions of employment, and working practices.

I have had a brief discussion with Mr. Singh already and, although employment law is not my area of legal expertise, I said it might not be lawful to insist all Kinky Pinky Oboe employees be Christian.

Being a compassionate man, and always willing to compromise, Mr. Singh seems to have taken this advice to heart and he has asked me to implement a policy where only 60% of Kinky Pinky Oboe employees need to be Christian.  He is happy for the remaining 40% to be of other faiths or, indeed, of no faith.  I understand from Mr. Singh that this is similar to the way many so-called “faith schools” in the United Kingdom operate in terms of staff recruitment and pupil selection, and Mr. Singh sees no reason why commercial organisations such as ours should not operate like this.

In my view Mr. Singh’s proposal would allow Kinky Pinky Oboe to remain “open to all” and thereby reflect the multi-cultural diversity of the United Kingdom, so I have tentatively advised him that Kinky Pinky Oboe would not be discriminating if it implemented his proposal.  Is that correct?  Kinky Pinky Oboe would in fact employ people of other faiths and of no faith, and in any case there are plenty of other musical instrument companies in the UK market.  Those other companies would presumably be entitled to have a different religious character to Kinky Pinky Oboe, or indeed a non-religious character, and so there would be “something for everyone”.

Like me, Mr. Singh is keen to avoid the inconvenience, unpredictability, cost and damage to Kinky Pinky Oboe’s reputation of employment litigation.  Therefore it is imperative the new policies and documentation be legally “watertight” and capable of withstanding legal challenges.

I am attaching signed scans of your firm’s engagement forms as well as all the paperwork your firm requires for client identification purposes, and my procurement colleague has just confirmed we have deposited £15,000 into your firm’s client account to cover initial costs.  I am also attaching Word versions of all Kinky Pinky Oboe’s current HR policies and contract templates, should you find some of the information helpful in producing the new documentation.

I hope this is the start of a long and productive relationship between Kinky Pinky Oboe and your firm, and so I look forward to working with you on this project and many others in the future.

Head of Legal
Kinky Pinky Oboe plc
“Give it a good blow”®

When I have posed this problem to some employment lawyers their instinctive reaction has been to laugh.  The same lawyers have tried to convince me of the desirability of faith schools.

If you find the above set of legal instructions absurd, like I do, you will realise how absurd I find the idea of “faith schools”.