British Sikhs will no longer face the prospect of disciplinary action for wearing turbans in the work place, after new rules came into force on Thursday.
For more than 20 years, Sikhs working in the construction industry have been exempted from rules requiring head protection – but because of a 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 a safety helmet in the majority of workplaces.
Priti Patel, Minister for Employment and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Indian Diaspora Champion, welcomed the move.
“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. 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”, Ms Patel said.
Existing exemptions applied to construction sites but not to less hazardous environments, an anomaly that will be rectified by the new amendment to the Employment Act.
The amendment also provides legal protection for employers against potential legal action or negligence claims.
“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 Gurindher Singh Josan, from the Sikh Council UK.