Headscarves Ban and Religious Discrimination

Gillian Cumming
Gillian Cumming
Senior Solicitor
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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday issued its decision in the case of Achtiba v G4S Secure Solutions, which looked at a ban on wearing headscarves in the workplace.

The ECJ has confirmed that for a company to impose general rules which seek to prevent employees from the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign (and which would therefore include a Muslim employee wearing a headscarf) on the basis of maintaining an image of neutrality, does not constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of religion.

The basis for the ECJ’s decision was that, on the facts of this particular case, the rule applied to all employees equally and covered all religious symbols; the company was not treating one religion less favourably than another.

However, the ECJ also found that while the company’s stated objective in maintaining neutrality across its workforce was a legitimate aim, the rule could potentially constitute indirect discrimination if it put persons adhering to a particular religion or belief at a particular disadvantage and that disadvantage could have been avoided, for example, by moving the employee away from a customer-facing role.

Whilst this decision may be seen as helpful to some employers in terms of constructing dress code policies, caution is still advised in implementing dress codes which impact on employees’ ability to wear visible signs of any political, philosophical or religious belief to assess any risks potentially arising.

If you would like to discuss the implications of this decision further, or require support on any employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact the team on 0141 331 5150.

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