The Advocate General has recently given an opinion that a Belgium company’s dress code banning employees from wearing any visible religious, political or theosophical symbols in the workplace, which was used to prevent a Muslim employee from wearing an Islamic headscarf, did not amount to direct discrimination; the ban affected all employees equally.
A particular important factor was the employer’s desired objective of religious and ideological neutrality. The policy was considered a legitimate commercial choice given the broad range of clients in the public and private sectors to whom the company was providing services. It was considered that the dress code was both appropriate and necessary for achieving this objective.
In considering whether the dress code caused undue prejudice to employees the Advocate General noted that interestingly unlike other protected characteristics such as sex, skin colour, or ethnic origin, the practice of religion is an area over which an individual can choose to exert an influence. An employee may therefore be expected to moderate the exercise of religion in the workplace. However the degree of moderation will depend on the circumstances of each case and the issue or proportionality is for a national court to decide.
Legal advice about dress code in the workplace
If you have any questions about dress code in the workplace, call to speak to a specialist employment lawyer using the telephone numbers below. Bray & Bray have three main offices across Leicestershire, feel free to phone or pop in to talk to our solicitors.