Diversity - Special Diets

I wondered what everyone's views are about the question I have been asked?

'Does the company have an obligation to provide special diets (in this instance  kosher ) at a company event (conference). It is an expensive option, the cost of providing Kosher food over the 3 day conference is £450. '

  • Diane

    My view would be its best not to get into discussions about obligations and stay in the land of what is the right thing to do. That often answers the first question anyway.

    If this is a three day conference (in a Hotel I would imagine) what exactly do you expect the individual to eat if you don't provide food that is acceptable to his religion? I suppose he could bring his own sandwiches for the three days and munch away while other delegates are enjoying your hospitality?

    This individuals request doesn't appear frivolous but I would imagine is something that is important to him. I assume you want them at the conference, motivated and fully participating and not feeling like a second class citizen.

    BTW I think you probably do have an obligation anyway but as I said thats not teh key thing.




  • I agree with Keith.  I would expect to cater for differing requirements, for either religious or medical reasons, in fact any reasonable request.

    I think it's right and I think you do have an obligation.



  • In reply to Julia:

    Yes you have an obligation - but I would also be enquiring as to why it is £450 for 3 days - if that is for one individual it seems very expensive - £150/ day guessing they are eating gold!!

    If an individual had another dietary requirement - e.g. gluten free - would that cost £450 also? If not then I think the hotel is running the risk of being discriminatory also!

  • I work in a hotel and I asked our conference organiser about iths as we often get special requests for food gluten fee, coeliec etc.  We have had requests for Kosher and never charged any extra for it.  If the person was on an extremly strict Kosher diet we may have to chage a little more as we would have to source the food from further afield (not many kosher suppliers where we are in middle of nowhere!) but the request we have come across we have been to accommodate.
  • Hi Diane

    A reappraisal of the contract for the conference venue seems to beckon !

    Agree with Keith that this shouldn't be about legal obligations at all, but the general rule would be that a refusal to make this kind of adjustment might be discriminatory re someone's religion or belief and  would require 'objective justification' otherwise it would be unlawful. 

    AFAIK, Kosher food isn't all that expensive to source or prepare, so, to objectively justify refusal, even on the basis that it might involve a small surcharge, wouldn't seem too possible.

    Sure too that more helpful and less grasping caterers could be found - it's not an unusual request, after all, and even if it's a new one to them, they should regard it as a learning opportunity.
  • Hi all

    Bit of a tangent here, regarding the price of kosher meals only, rather than the lawfulness of failing to provide them...

    I worked in the hotel industry for a number of years and my experience there suggests that there is kosher and then there is kosher.

    Kosher-STYLE or 'non-offensive' food follows the basics of kosher in that meat and milk are not mixed; there's no use of shellfish or pork, etc. This, indeed, is not overly expensive to produce as it can generally be done by the hotel's own kitchen and staff.

    However, fully kosher food (that which has been prepared in line with the exacting requirements of orthodoxy and rabbinical law) is something quite different. Individual meals are bought in from specialist suppliers, hermetically sealed, and sold on in exactly the same way so that guests can be sure it is what it purports to be. This is VERY expensive in comparison.

    Which end of the spectrum (if I can put it like that) each guest goes for will probably depend on the circumstances... For example, non-offensive might be OK (as a minimum) for everyday eating within a not-fully-orthodox Jewish famil, say if they went to a local restaurant, whereas a wedding or mitzvah to which they are inviting their Rabbi would probably require fully kosher food. This is how a Jewish friend once explained it to me, anyway.

    So perhaps the venue in question is erring on the side of caution and sticking to fully kosher..?

    As I said, a bit of a tangent, so apologies for that - I just find it really interesting!

  • Very interesting, Eleanor !

    If the full Monty you describe only comes at a hefty premium, then it might well be possible objectively to justify refusal to provide it, in this context - someone not prepared to put up with non-offensive fare for a little while IMHO might be thought to be acting unreasonably - respect fully their sincere beliefs, if they choose to be so ultra-Orthodox, but, if wishing to live and work within a different culture, think it's not unreasonable that they themselves make some 'reasonable adjustments'