A British Airways employee suffered discrimination at work over her Christian beliefs, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled. The BBCs coverage details how Nadia Eweida took her case to the ECHR after BA made her stop wearing her gold cross visibly http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21025332
Some points to consider …
As most of the claims failed it would appear that employers are entitled to put into place policies that promote equality whether or not that might be contrary to the beliefs of any religion.
However following the Eweida decision it would be sensible for any employer to consider whether uniform and appearance requirements might disadvantage employees of a particular religion.
If an employee makes it known that they wish to wear a particular religious item the question should be given serious consideration and where possible the employee’s requests should be accommodated.
If there has been a careful assessment of the work situation the employer will be in a stronger position to resist legal claims. As the Court recognised there may be situations where the item of clothing or religious emblem could impact on the employee’s ability to carry out their duties in work, in those types of situation the dress and appearance policy can be justified, for example, it was recognised in the Chaplin case that it might interfere with a nurse giving medical treatment, in this situation the policy could be justified on health and safety grounds. In most cases the issue should be clear but on the other hand would a requirement to look smart justify a ban on a Rastafarian hairstyle? Or should a ceremonial dagger be allowed into work where there is close contact with vulnerable people.