Workplace turban law lifted
A new employment law that allows Sikhs to wear turbans in the workplace has come into force across the UK. The amendment follows decade-long efforts by Sikh groups to address a loophole in the law, which meant that turban-wearers faced discrimination in the workplace. Interestingly, employment laws has exempted turban wearers from the need to wear a safety helmet on construction sites. This exemption did not apply to less hazardous environments such as factories and warehouses – somewhat of a contradiction.
The Sikh Council UK, the largest representative body of British Sikhs, said that an anomaly was created by the 1989 Employment Act as Sikhs were allowed to wear turbans in place of safety helmets, in environments where there was a high risk of head injuries, but the exemption did not extend to comparatively safer environments. The Council further stated that the rules led to a number of cases where Sikhs faced disciplinary actions and were dismissed from longstanding employment for their refusal to remove their turban and wear a safety helmet.
We think that this amendment will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the proportion of work environments that members of the Sikh community can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity. It is important to note that there will still be certain exceptions where safety helmets will be required – such as for specific roles in the armed forces and emergency response situations.