On Friday the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) published guidance for employers on dress codes and appearance in the workplace (https://www.acas.org.uk/dresscode).
Dress code and appearance have always been tricky issues for employers who find themselves having to strike the right balance between their organisation’s image and values on the one hand and their employees’ rights and freedoms on the other.
The new ACAS guidance deals with issues such as tattoos and body piercings, a potentially controversial issue which made the press recently when one employee was sacked for having a visible ankle tattoo. It is generally understood that employers have a wide discretion in reaching such decisions but it is recommended that thought should always be given to whether the offending tattoos or piercings are a manifestation of an employee’s religion or belief.
ACAS’s guidance deals with that tricky area of religious expression in the workplace. ACAS is keen to stress that employers should tread carefully and should, wherever possible, allow employees to wear religious clothing unless there are good business reasons to refuse. This reflects the findings of the European Court of Human Rights in its ruling last year in the case of Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom. (https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/01/15/strasbourg-rules-against-ba-on-crucifix-issue/)
ACAS recommends that all employers introduce a clear code as to what is expected of employees, to consult with employees about the code if possible, to carefully consider the reasons behind all restrictions and to clearly communicate the policy to employees.
If you would like us to review your dress code or wish to discuss religious discrimination in the work place with a member of our employment team.