Marks & Spencer has been criticised after a Muslim member of staff refused to serve a shopper who wanted to buy alcohol.

The department store retailer said it had a policy of assigning staff who could not handle certain items due to their religious beliefs “suitable roles”.

Islams forbids followers from consuming alcohol, and some Muslims refuse to handle it at all.

M&S’s religious policy emerged after an unnamed customer told the Telegraph they had tried to buy a bottle of champagne in an M&S store, but the member of staff “was very apologetic but said she could not serve me” and asked the customer to use another till.

Other retailers said they had similar policies, applied on a case-by-case basis, that allow Muslims to avoid handling alcohol or pork, and allow similar exceptions for other religions.

But Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis, said on Radio 5 Live’s On the Money programme on Sunday that the retailer did not have a similar policy, and questioned whether members of staff should have the right to refuse to serve customers.

“This is taking it one stage beyond common sense,” he said.

“We certainly have never had any issue with our teams… we’ve not even had to have a policy on this. I would hope [members of staff] would understand that in their job this was probably going to be required.”

M&S has also been criticised by customers on its Facebook page and a Facebook page calling for people to boycott the retailer gained hundreds of ‘likes’ within hours of being created.

A spokesperson for M&S said: “Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our member of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department or bakery in foods.

“As a secular business we have an inclusive policy that welcomes all religious beliefs, whether across our customer or employee base… We apologise that this policy was not followed in the case reported.”