If an employer requires staff to wear a uniform, what modifications should it consider to accommodate employees who practise different religions?
Dress codes that require the wearing of a uniform should be flexible enough to accommodate the various requirements of different religions relating to dress and appearance. Many employers now address specific religious dress issues in their policies and uniforms and a degree of flexibility can avoid unnecessary disputes. For example, a uniform that requires women to wear skirts could lead to complaints from female Muslim employees who believe that it is a religious requirement to cover their legs. In Malik v British Home Stores  ET/2901/79 (a race discrimination case decided before the introduction of religion or belief discrimination legislation), an employment tribunal recommended that the employer modify its uniform to allow female employees to wear trousers, rather than a skirt, under their overall. Similarly, employers could accommodate a requirement for Muslim women to cover their hair by designing a uniform including the option of wearing a headscarf.
In Eweida and others v United Kingdom  IRLR 231 ECHR, the European Court of Human Rights 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 as a result of a rule allowing her to wear a cross only if it was concealed. 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. The employer had subsequently decided to amend its dress code to allow more flexibility and permit the open wearing of religious jewellery.
Other examples of possible modifications include incorporating turbans into an organisation's uniform for male Sikh employees and allowing Rastafarian employees to put their dreadlocks up into a tam.