Following the European court ruling earlier this week that employers have the right to ban their workers from wearing religious symbols, there could understandably be some confusion over what’s acceptable to wear to the office.
While many of the headlines have focused on the hijab, a headscarf which is worn by Muslim women, the ruling goes much wider and can include everything from a crucifix to a turban.
There is more to the ruling than just a blanket ban on anything religious though. Any employer who wants to introduce such a dress code will need to demonstrate that it’s because of a need for neutrality, rather than because of a prejudice against any particular group.
Growth Business points out that within the UK there have been conflicting court cases about the right to wear religious symbols in the workplace and this is likely to make things even more confusing for employers.
Nicola Ihnatowicz, employment partner at Trowers & Hamlins LLP, explained that any company that chooses to impose a neutral dress code will need to do so carefully.
“An individual’s right to manifest their religious beliefs under the European Convention on Human Rights should also be taken into account,” she added.
The Church of England has expressed its concerns over the ruling. Speaking to the Telegraph, Bishop of Leeds Rt Revd Nicholas Baines said the ruling raised “vital questions about freedom of expression”.
Whether you’re looking for offices to let in Scarborough or Liverpool, dress codes will be among the things that you need to consider for your employees. And as the various legal cases from the past few years show, there’s a very fine line between what’s considered appropriate and what’s considered discriminatory.