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The Sarah Buxton blog


Newsflash: an employee is dismissed due to indirect discrimination

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Health and safety is of utmost importance for all dental professionals. Often, jewellery is not permitted for this very reason. But what about if it’s part of an employee’s religion?

A Judge in Scotland recently ruled that a food factory employee was dismissed due to indirect discrimination.

The employee, Mr J Kovalkovs, wore a crucifix necklace as part of his Russian Orthodox religion. His employer, 2 Sisters Food Group, had a ‘foreign body control policy’ which banned all jewellery apart from religious jewellery but only after a risk assessment.

Kovalkovs was asked to remove the crucifix multiple times, and he protested because it was religious. Eventually, his employer carried out a risk assessment for the jewellery and found there to be a risk of contamination.

He was asked to remove it one last time - refused - and was asked to leave by the company’s HR department.

After making several claims for indirect discrimination, his case was eventually heard by an employment tribunal.

The tribunal upheld the defendant’s claim for indirect discrimination, as they found that a risk assessment had not been “appropriately fulfilled” - Kovalkovs was not allowed to take measures to reduce the risk of wearing the crucifix. As a result, he was awarded £22,074.68.

So, as a Practice Manager or Owner, what can you do to avoid this situation happening to you?

As a first step, you should always make sure your dress codes are fair and not discriminatory in terms of religion, race, gender or any other protected characteristic.

Secondly, you should always carry out your health and safety risk assessments in the fairest way possible. Look for ways to involve your employee and offer them a compromise that means they can wear their religious jewellery without harming patients or themselves.

If you need help shaping your policies around this issue, get in touch and set up a call.

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