Employment Law SOS: Corporate Clothing

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We've just recruited a new team leader who is a Sikh. We insist all shopfloor workers wear corporate caps: clearly he cannot because of his turban, but do we need to do or say anything before anyone questions this?

A requirement that all shopfloor workers wear corporate caps runs the risk of claims for direct and indirect race/religious discrimination if this is something that the company is going to insist on, particularly if it is of cosmetic value only. A key point to address is whether these caps are expected to be worn only for uniform reasons, or whether the headwear is one of the personal protective equipment items issued to employees on health and safety grounds. If any employees complain about this new team leader not wearing a corporate cap, then you should simply explain that they are excused on religious ground. A related issue is that you need to check your health and safety risk assessments to ascertain whether or not a failure to wear a corporate cap is likely to be health risk to this new member of staff and if it is, discuss with him any possible ways to ensure that he is safe. The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations came into force at the end of 2003, at which point it became unlawful to discriminate against workers because of religion or similar belief. Bear in mind that discrimination can be direct or indirect – indirect is where a business has policies or practices which, although they are applied to all employees, have the effect of disadvantaging people of a particular religion or belief unless the practice can be justified. Indirect discrimination is unlawful whether it is intentional or not.