Scope for ban in Islamic headscarves limited

Be Aware UK: monthly employment law newsletter

The European Court of Justice has decided that an internal rule which prohibits the visible wearing of any religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination based on religion or belief. Although such a rule might constitute indirect discrimination, it may be objectively justified.

Employers who operate a dress code may want to use this case as a catalyst for a review of their rules. Practical points to consider are:

  • Reassessing why the dress code is necessary and identifying the legitimate aim of the policy
  • Considering the scope of the code and what the justification is for its different elements
  • Deciding whether employees or employee representatives should be involved in discussions about the code
  • Checking what arrangements are in place to ensure that the code is applied consistently and systematically across the business
  • Considering what flexibility is allowed within the code, where exceptions are made and checking that any flexibility is being managed consistently across the business

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