Can an employer ban jewellery from the workplace?

Some employers choose to include restrictions on the wearing of jewellery as part of their dress code but these restrictions may lead to complaints of discrimination. In Eweida and others v United Kingdom [2013] IRLR 231 ECHR, the employer's policy allowed employees to wear religious jewellery only if it was worn under the uniform. The claimant was instructed to remove a cross that she refused to conceal. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held that the claimant's right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion under art.9 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached because a fair balance had not been struck between her desire to manifest her religious beliefs and the employer's wish to project a certain corporate image. There was no real evidence that wearing such jewellery would negatively affect the employer's image or brand.

Employers should consider whether or not there is a legitimate reason behind a ban on jewellery. Where a ban on jewellery does amount to indirect discrimination, employers may be able to justify the policy if the wearing of jewellery might constitute a health and safety risk, such as where employees are operating potentially dangerous machinery.

A dress code that distinguishes between the sexes as to what jewellery may be worn in the workplace might also constitute sex discrimination. In Jarman v The Link Stores Ltd [2004] ET/2505091/03, a male employee was disciplined for refusing to remove his earring and successfully argued that this amounted to sex discrimination.