Religious dress code is a topic that comes up a lot with our clients and can be a very sensitive subject but there shouldn’t be any need for additional concern. Employers are advised to allow groups or individuals wear items of articles that show their religious faith. They should embrace diversity and promote an inclusive workforce rather than being unfair or restrictive to employees of certain religions and beliefs. The below case demonstrates how banning religious dress discriminates against religion…
A Muslim receptionist was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) after being dismissed for wearing a headscarf to work. She was referred from the French Courts because of her claims from being directly discriminated against on the grounds of her Muslim faith. The company G4S had a policy that banned employees of all faiths from wearing visible religious dress. This meant Christians couldn’t wear crucifixes and Sikh’s couldn’t wear turbans.
The CJEU decided the claimant had not been directly discriminated against on the grounds of her faith as no religion is treated favorably over another. However, the CJEU considered Achbita may have been indirectly discriminated against due to the company policy disadvantaging Muslims more than others. The court did find that G4S did have a legitimate reason and could defend their policy as they wanted to portray a neutral image.
It’s important to understand that this case began in France. Their stance on this case differs to the UK, because in France, workers in the public sector are already prohibited from wearing headscarves. UK legislation puts a higher bar on the objective justification defense than what the CJEU had to consider in this case. This means that an employer in the UK would be successful in defending a similar policy to G4S’s.
Individuals should be allowed to demonstrate their religion through their dress and this has been suggested by recent legal decisions. An example could be wearing a cross symbol to denote Christianity or wearing a Kippah or Yarmulke as part of the Jewish faith.
If an employer bans certain articles of clothing, they must be able to justify the reason. They should make sure they’re not indirectly discriminating against these employees. Any restriction should be connected to a safety or business requirement.
Its important employees think about the image they want to portray. They need to work with their staff members so a strict dress code isn’t implemented. All employees should be allowed to display their faith if it doesn’t go against the company image or any health and safety requirements.
If you have any queries regarding religious dress codes in the workplace, please contact a member of the HPC team on 0844 800 5932 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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