Download the HR Guide
Head Office 01224 701383
Recruitment 01224 701704

17.03.17

ECJ rules that it is not direct discrimination to ban the headscarf at work, but there are caveats.


The European Court has ruled in favour of an employer who dismissed an employee who continued to wear a headscarf as an expression of her Muslim faith despite a rule stating that religious symbols were not permitted in the workplace.

The decision was based on the view that as long as all religious symbols were banned, it could not be argued that one particular group was being singled out for discrimination.

In the case of Achbita vs G4S the court ruled that the dismissal was fair as the aim of wanting a ‘neutral image’ was legitimate and that the employee had broken the unwritten rules prohibiting religious symbols. The court added that it is important that as G4S wanted to project the image of neutrality they need to look at why Ms Achbita could not be moved to a non-customer facing role.

The statement from the court read;

“The court of justice, finds that G4S’s internal rule refers to the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs and therefore covers any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction. The rule thus treats all employees to the undertaking in the same way, notably by requiring them, generally and without any differentiation, to dress neutrally”

The reaction to the decision has been varied. Some, like French Presidential candidate François Fillon praised the ruling, stating that it will help social cohesion and social peace in France. Unsurprisingly however, religious groups have been alarmed at the decision, with The Conference of European Rabbis saying that this ruling makes it clear that faith communities are no longer welcome in Europe. Maryam H’madoun from the Open Society of Justice Initiative said that it discriminated against people who wanted to express their religion in their dress. She went on to say that although this will affect all religions it will disproportionately affect Muslim women, nearly all of whom wear a head scarf with varying degrees of facial coverage.  

Campaigners for a secular society believe that the Court’s decision was sensible as they think that when this law is applied equally to all it can’t be reasonably argued that it constitutes less favourable treatment for any particular group.

This is clearly a contentious area of law so please call Empire to seek advice and discuss potential risks before introducing or changing a dress code policy.

 

Call Empire in 01224 701383

Stay up to date…

Fill out the form to subscribe to our newsletter. Keep up to date with news and insights from our team.

Social Media

Follow Empire HR on your favourite social network.

Empire Aberdeen

Empire House
117 Grandholm Drive
Aberdeen
AB22 8AE

01224 701383

Empire Glasgow

Centrum Offices
38 Queen Street
Glasgow
G1 3DX

0141 432 1903

Empire Inverness

Corrie Lodge
Millburn Road
Inverness
IV2 3TP

01463 801903

Empire Dundee

Unit 27, City Quay
Camperdown Street
Dundee
DD1 3JA

01224 701383