Employment & HR Article
16 March, 2017
Muslim women's rights to wear a headscarf and full-face veil in public places and within the workplace have been subject to major debate. Various European countries have addressed the issue, with France and Belgium restricting such women's rights in 2011, and both Austria and the Netherlands implementing similar restrictions.
On 12th June 2006, a Muslim women who worked for the security company G4S was dismissed. Samira Achbita brought a claim for wrongful dismissal on the grounds of direct discrimination relating to her religion. This was argued on the basis that she was treated differently because of her particular religion, which was clear through the visible wearing of a headscarf.
The questions the European Court of Justice faced included; whether a private employer is permitted to prohibit a female employee of Muslim faith from wearing a headscarf in their workplace and whether that employer is permitted to dismiss her if she refuses to remove the headscarf at work.
On Tuesday 14th March 2017 the Court ruled that; the fact that a female employee of Muslim faith is prohibited from wearing an Islamic headscarf at work does not constitute direct discrimination based on religion if that ban is founded on a general company rule which prohibits visible political, philosophical and religious symbols in the workplace and not on stereotypes or prejudice against any religions or religious beliefs.
The Court continued and stated that such a ban may constitute indirect discrimination based on religion. However, this may be justified in order to enforce a policy of religious and ideological neutrality pursued by an employer in the company concerned, in so far as the principle of proportionality is observed in that regard. The Court ruled that the following factors must be taken into account: the size and conspicuousness of the religious symbol, the nature of the employee's activity, the context in which she has to perform that activity and the national identity of the Member State concerned.
This ruling has made it clear that decisions will be in the hands of national courts. We could see this resulting in some countries adopting stricter rules compared with others, however it will allow national courts to represent the diverse cultures throughout the European Union.
The ban must be based on company rules which require all employees to "dress neutrally". Any customer's personal views and opinions on the matter must not be taken into consideration, even if they complain. This goes against the ruling in Bougnaoui and ADDH v Micropole SA where a decision to dismiss an employee for wearing a headscarf following a customer complaint was found to be direct discrimination.
If you are looking for any more information with regards to our services view our Employment & HR section. You can also contact solicitor Georgina Read in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 03332071154. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.
We find that the Forbes team take a pragmatic and supportive approach and enjoy working with their team.
Kepak Convenience Foods
We approached Forbes Solicitors on a recommendation because as a small independent organisation we needed clear guidance and backing on HR matters.
Piccadilly Garden & Support Service
The Forbes team were fantastic, the work and effort they put in was impressive and I was made to feel at ease throughout the proceedings. I can not thank the Forbes team enough
Without doubt Jonathan Holden is like a security blanket. He understands that schools need to act in the best interest of school as a whole
Brenda P Allen
Jennifer was great and worked beyond the call of duty. No faults.
I will keep promoting you and your services because I'm fully committed to the quality of your work and the impact that it has in school.
Ashton Community Science College
Amy Stokes was more than helpful throughout the whole process - Thank you Amy.
Forbes are proactive in relation to changes in legislation and keep me informed via regular seminars, updates and bulletins.
Business Support Manager
Birchall Catering Supplies Ltd
I have always found everyone at Forbes to be approachable, helpful and professional, and would have no hesitation in recommending them to any other business
E A Foulds Limited
May I say how much the employment team at Forbes have helped Samlesbury Hall with staff issues over the past ten years.
...we have found Forbes to be an excellent team of people to work with, fully understanding our needs and goals.
Apeks Marine Equipment Ltd.