Sikhs across the UK will no longer face the prospect of disciplinary action for wearing turbans in workplaces after new rules come into force on Thursday.
Sikh groups campaigned for years to close a loophole in UK employment legislation which meant that Sikhs were exempt from safety headgear only in high-risk areas, such as construction sites. An amendment was introduced to the Deregulation Bill by the UK government to close that loophole.
“This change demonstrates that, whoever you are, whatever your background, and whatever industry you choose – if you work hard and want to get on in life, this government will be on your side,” said UK minister for employment Priti Patel.
“As the Prime Minister’s Indian Diaspora Champion as well as employment minister, I’m delighted to be part of the government that has made this change. It makes me proud that the UK is the home of such a talented, ambitious and hardworking community”.
Since 1989, Sikhs working in the construction industry have been exempt from rules requiring head protection but because of the legal loophole those in less dangerous industries, such as those working in factories and warehouses, were not.
This meant that Sikhs in many jobs who chose to wear turbans rather than the required head protection could be at risk of disciplinary action or even dismissal. Turban-wearing Sikhs will now have the right to choose not to wear head protection and will be exempt from legal requirements to wear helmets in the majority of workplaces.
“We are pleased that Parliament listened to our campaign and enabled this vital change in the law. It will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the number of workplaces that turban-wearing Sikhs can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity,” said Gurinder Singh Josan, spokesperson for Sikh Council UK.
A new clause into the Deregulation Bill 2015 extends the existing exemption in the Employment Act to all workplaces. Should an individual suffer injuries as a consequence of not wearing head protection, employers will be legally protected through the extension of limited liability.
There are exclusions for emergency response services and the military, which apply only in hazardous operational situations when the wearing of a safety helmet is considered necessary.
This may include entering a burning building or those where protective clothing needs to enclose the whole body in situations such as bomb disposal, or dealing with hazardous materials like chemical leaks, biohazards or radiation.