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Blanket ban on facial hair deemed discriminatory

In Sethi v Elements Personnel Services, a Sikh man won his claim for religious discrimination against a recruitment agency who denied him work on account of his facial hair.

The Claimant adhered to Kesh, a practice which requires the person not to cut any body hair. He applied to an agency which specialised in providing workers for 5-star hotels, particularly in front-of-house food and beverage roles, and its dress code required male workers to be clean shaven.

The Claimant informed the agency he would not be able to shave his beard for religious reasons, and they responded that they could not offer him work as a result due to their client’s requirements for a clean-shaven appearance.

The tribunal found that the “no-beards” policy was a clear PCP that placed the Claimant at a significant disadvantage but accepted that the requirement for a smart appearance was a “legitimate aim”.

A Sikh man won his claim for religious discrimination against a recruitment agency who denied him work on account of his facial hair.

However, the tribunal was critical of the agency for not asking its clients whether they would make an exception for a Sikh worker unable to shave for religious reasons and held the blanket ban on facial hair was disproportionate.

The case is a reminder that whilst a dress code for client-facing roles is acceptable, employers must be careful that it does not disproportionately affect a particular group.

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