Sikh refused work on the grounds of a ‘no beards’ policy wins religious discrimination case

A tribunal recently found that a Sikh job hunter, denied work because of a recruitment agency’s ‘no beards’ policy, was discriminated against on the grounds of his religion.

The London based recruitment agency, Elements Personnel Services, refused to offer work to bearded Raman Sethi because of their clients’ requirements in relation to facial hair, grooming and dress code.

Elements provided temporary staff to some high-end London hotels including the Grosvenor House Hotel and Claridge’s however they enforced their “neatly trimmed” facial hair policy to the letter, refusing Sethi to join their temporary staff bank because he wouldn’t trim his beard.

The problem for Elements is that they didn’t actually speak with their clients on the subject to see what their actual stance was, instead choosing to apply their own blanket policy that discriminated against Sethi as a practising Sikh, who was unable to abide by the rules on religious grounds.

The tribunal awarded Sethi over £7,000 in compensation for indirect religious discrimination.

This decision provides real clarity on the subject of dress and appearance codes.

Great care must be taken to ensure that any particular requirement isn’t discriminatory.

If there is a possibility that it could be, this must be objectively justified to give a defence against applying a policy, rule or practice that would otherwise be unlawful indirect discrimination.

If you would like to receive the latest employment law updates by email sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can unsuscribe at any time.