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Our dress code requires male employees to wear a tie.  One employee has objected to this requirement because, as a Muslim, he is not permitted to wear anything which bears a resemblance to a Cross.

Should we grant him an exception?

EFB Comment

The tie doesn't have any obvious connection with the Christian cross and does not particularly look like one and on that basis employees should be expected to comply with this accepted form of business dress where the employer requirs it.

Of course, standards of business dress change substantially with fashion and over time (as one example, just compare today with photos of the 1950s or earlier to see the difference in men's wearing of hats). We suspect that tie wearing may become similarly outmoded unless formal business dress is required or it is a key part of a uniform.

What do we do about employees who want to wear the Kirpan? We don't have a policy on this in our uniform policy.

What the employer did:
The employer opted to incorporate the Kirpan into their uniform policy and to train people to recognise the Kirpan and who would be wearing it.

EFB Comment:

While this is a very narrow example, it does raise the question of how far employers should go in adapting uniform/dress codes to deal with symbols of faith.

What do we do about female staff in customer facing roles wearing veils and burkas when elderly or disabled customers experience difficulty in hearing or understanding them?

EFB Comment:

An employer can have a policy which limits the wearing of the veil at work. But this is likely to discriminate indirectly against Muslim women and would need to be objectively justified. It is possible to establish a legitimate aim, provided that clear 'over the counter' communications with customers are an important requirement of the job and the employer can show that the veil impairs communication. We would recommend that supporting evidence is gathered (in this case e.g. customer complaints). To date legal experience suggests that proportionality would depend on showing that other solutions had been properly examined, and that restrictions were properly focused (for example, the wearing of the veil should not be restricted except where it impedes satisfactory job performance, and unless there are other considerations should be permitted at other times).