No Beard Policy Constitutes Discrimination

January 17, 2020, By

In this case, before the Employment Tribunal, the Claimant, Mr Sethi, was a Sikh who for religious reasons did not cut his hair and wore a turban. Mr Sethi sought employment in high-class hotels through the Respondent agency, Elements Personnel Services Ltd. The Claimant The Respondent suggested that the Claimant should attempt to seek employment with lower-class hotels where this may not be so much of an issue.

The Claimant brought a claim for discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.

The Employment Judge decided that the following justification test applied: –

  1.    Whether the legitimate aim of the provision, criterion or practice (PCP) is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a protected right.
  2.    Whether the PCP is rationally connected to the objective.
  3.    Whether a less intrusive measure could be used without unacceptably compromising the achievement of the objective.
  4.    Whether the impact of the rights infringed is disproportionate to the likely benefits of the PCP.

In this case, (and going against previous EAT decisions on the subject), the Tribunal rejected the justification of the legitimate aims of hygiene, appearance requirements and client requirements. The Respondent failed to provide evidence supporting its aims and the Tribunal recognised the importance of hair to the Sikh religion. It also found that not all hotels had a no-beard policy, that a net would address hygiene concerns, and that the Respondent had not properly considered any exceptions to its standard policy rules.

This case is important as, despite being only a first instance decision, it goes against previous EAT decisions regarding justification of otherwise discriminatory laws and applied a stricter test for considering justification.