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Can an employer justify a "no beard" policy?

A practising Sikh, who adhered to Kesh (the requirement that body hair not be cut) was refused work from an agency because he would not be able to shave his beard. He brought a claim of religious discrimination.

The agency worked predominantly with five star hotels and argued that their blanket “no beards” policy had been implemented in response to demands from its clients. The policy was concerned with appearance not health and safety or hygiene reasons.

The tribunal accepted that it was a legitimate aim for the agency to seek to comply with client’s requirements but that the blanket ban was not justified as a proportionate means of achieving that aim. There was no evidence that any client had been asked if they would make an exception and not all the agency’s hotels had a “no beard” requirement. He was awarded £5,000 damages for injury to feelings.

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