Employers can ban staff from wearing religious clothing and signs

Head-scarf wearing Muslim women and other working people who express their faith through religious clothing or symbols could be affected by a recent court ruling.

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that employers are allowed to ban employees from wearing of any visible “political, philosophical or religious sign” in the workplace.

But the ban must be part of an internal company policy which applies to all employees and does not directly discriminate against any religious or ethnic group.

The ruling only applies to EU law and therefore does not affect the protection which individuals have through the Human Rights Act, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Wearing religious symbols such as the cross to work may become harder in some professions.
Wearing religious symbols such as the cross to work may become harder in some professions.

Individuals have a right to freely express their religious beliefs under the law and the State vows to protect this right in its courts.

However,  Stand Up to Racism secretary, Yousuf Farooq fears that the EU ruling could force Muslim women out of work.

He said: “People should have the freedom to wear religious clothing at work, and should not be made to choose between employment and their faith.”

“There is no correlation between what a person chooses to wear and their performance in the workplace”.

Yousuf Farooq, Stand Up to Racism secretary 

Farooq strongly believes that the recent ruling will  affect many Muslim women who often choose to wear a hijab for religious and cultural reasons.

He said he found it hard to understand the “correlation between what a person chooses to wear and their performance in the workplace.”

https://vimeo.com/208823118

Video: Yousuf Farooq on the recent EU ruling 

The EU court ruling has received a lot of backlash from religious groups and human rights organisations.

CBJSpotlight spoke to the people of Nottingham to find out about their thoughts on the ban on wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

Audio: Nottingham locals have their say on the EU workplace ban

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) was ruling on a case dating back to 2003 when Samira Achbita, a Muslim woman, was employed as a receptionist by G4S security services in Belgium.

According to the ECJ, the company at that  time had an “unwritten rule” that employees should not wear any political, religious or philosophical symbols at work.

In 2006, Achbita told G4S she wanted to wear the Islamic headscarf at work but was told this would not be permitted.

Then the company introduced a formal ban. Achbita was dismissed and she went to court claiming discrimination.

The ECJ said European Union law does stop discrimination on religious grounds, but G4S’s actions were based on treating all employees the same, meaning no one person was singled out for application of the ban.