8th June 2015

Uniform requests and religious discrimination

When does a uniform policy amount to religious discrimination? There have been many cases which have looked at the question of where do employers cross the line with uniform policies, resulting in religious discrimination. Applicants and workers are protected against religious discrimination under the Equality At 2010.

A recent case concerned Ms B, a nursery assistant, who applied for a post at a Nursery.

Ms B attended an interview and when the employer noticed that her jilbab was covering her feet, she was asked whether she would wear a shorter garment for work as the jilbab she was wearing was seen as a trip hazard. A jilbab is a full-length garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the body from neck to ankles.

Ms B made a tribunal claim which included allegations that there was a requirement not to wear an ankle-length jilbab and that this was a provision, criteria or practice (PCP) which was indirectly discriminatory against Muslims and which could not be justified.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the Ms B had not been discriminated against.

As every case does turn on its facts, it is important to note the following:

  • 25% of the Nursery’s workforce were Muslim women and could wear jilbabs if they wanted.
  • The Nursery accommodated staff at prayer times and time off was given for Ramadan.
  • There was no PCP that she was not allowed to wear an ankle-length jilbab.

It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that the Tribunal found that the Nursery had not discriminated against the Ms B.

The above case highlights that provided employers are acting for a reasonable health and safety reason, and are acting with proportionate means to achieve that legitimate aim, then their uniform requirements should stand up to scrutiny.

If you have any concerns about discrimination in the workplace, or other employment or HR queries, we can help. Please contact Linda Wilson on 01730 268211 or .