Turban-wearing Sikhs are Exempt From Wearing Head Protection at Work

The exemption now covers all workplaces

Posted on: 07/10/2015   By: Lee Rance

Section 11 of the Employment Act allows Sikhs to wear turbans in place of hard hats. The law has been in place since 1989 but only used to cover the construction industry. It has now been widened to include all other industries where head protection is required. It comes after a campaign lasting over a year by the Sikh Council UK to address an anomaly in the law. Members of the Sikh community have faced disciplinary hearings and dismissal for refusing to wear head protection and others were unable to follow their chosen professions because of the insistence of the need to wear head protection.

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Secretary General of Sikh Council UK, Gurmel Singh said,

It will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the number of workplaces that Sikhs can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity.

Sikh’s can now choose whether or not they wear head protection and should an individual suffer injuries as a consequence of not wearing head protection, employers will be legally protected through the extension of limited liability.

The main reasons why Sikh’s wear turbans is to take care of the hair, promote equality, and preserve the Sikh identity. Sikhs do not cut their hair as a respect towards God and the turban protects the hair from dust. Covering of the head by turban also symbolizes respect towards God. People from many other religions including Hindus, Jews, and traditionally many Christians including Catholics cover their head while visiting their church. Since Sikhs believe God to be present everywhere, they cover their head not just in church but everywhere else as well.

There is a limited exception for particularly dangerous and hazardous tasks performed by individuals working in occupations which involve providing an urgent response to an emergency where a risk assessment has identified that head protection is essential for the protection of the individual e.g. such as a fire fighter entering a burning building, dealing with hazardous materials.

Employers are still required to take all necessary actions to avoid injury from falling objects by putting in place such safe systems of work, control measures and engineering solutions.

It is always going to be a difficult balancing act to ensure workers are protected from harm at work as much possible whilst ensuring people’s religious beliefs are respected. I think in this case the best solution has been reached.

Until next time

Lee Rance