On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Can You Lose Your Job If You Wear A Cross Necklace In Work
What Has Happened?
On Wednesday 5th January 2022 the Employment Tribunal handed down a judgement finding that a nurse had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of her religious beliefs.
What Does it Mean?
The claim centred around a nurse, who was in her early 60’s and the ’treatment’ she claimed she had received during her employment at a Croydon NHS provider. In context she had worn a tiny cross shaped jewellery item for around four decades and had never received any complaints about it. However, whilst working as a theatre nurse at Croydon she claimed that senior staff demanded her to take off the cross. In her claim the nurse felt marginalised due to her religious beliefs.
In October 2021 the nurse made a claim to the employment tribunal against the Croydon NHS' provider with whom she had been employed for eighteen years. She claimed under the auspices of unfair dismissal and discrimination. By way of comparison the nurse claimed that members of the workforce carrying out similar clinical roles were allowed to wear hijabs, turbans, saris and, most extraordinarily, jewellery. However inexplicably the nurse was subjected to sanctions.
Evidence emerged of a targeted campaign against the nurse and there was also an extraordinary example put forward on the nurse’s behalf of Croydon NHS Trust representatives entering an operating theatre during surgery to impose a punishment upon her for wearing a small cross. However, despite their efforts the nurse refused to remove the jewellery.
Due to her refusal the NHS Trust investigated and found an alternative role for her on reception. The nurse classed these decisions as a demotion and “deeply-humiliating”. She claimed that the treatment she received caused her to suffer work related stress and be absent from work. The condition was so bad that she made the tough decision to resign citing the employer’s conduct and claiming this amounted to a fundamental breach of her employment contract.
The Employment Judge heard evidence from a representative of the Croydon NHS provider who in defence claimed that the nurse was asked to remove the jewellery due to its apparent concerns over infection risks and its perception that the item may spread infection.
However, the Tribunal found that this could not possibly have been the case. The judgment cited the Hospital dress code and references to jewellery which stated in certain circumstances, “Jewellery may be worn…”. It also found that the nurse’s manager had given her permission to wear the cross during a meeting. Ironically in the same meeting another staff member was allowed to wear a hijab in the workplace.
The judge decided on balance that the claim of the item causing a high-risk of infection when worn by a nurse complying with the rules was seemingly ‘very-low’. The Tribunal found that the nurse had been constructively and unfairly dismissed as no ‘reasonable and proper’ cause was provided. The dismissal was also rendered discriminatory.
What Impact Could This Have on the Legal Sector?
This decision is a lesson for employers facing similar employment disputes. James Watkins from Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors believes the judgment will make it harder for employers to impose a ban on items of jewellery worn for religious worship purposes.
Lawyers should be advising employers to learn to recognise complex issues contained in grievances. Employers need to be advised to create a supportive environment for their workforce. The judge described the decision not to take a grievance any further as ‘intimidating and offensive” behaviour. Employers need to mitigate against the risk of receiving similar future damning indictments.
Lawyers should advise employers to check if their dress-codes measure-up. They should review the minutes from disciplinarymeetings to check if their policies have been enforced disproportionately, erratically or irrationally. The judgement was clear, there is no reason for cross-shaped-necklaces not to be permitted.
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This Article was Written Using the Following Sources
 Swerling, Gabriella – Christian Nurse forces out of job for ‘infection risk’ crucifix was unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules – 5 January 2022 - Christian NHS nurse ‘forced out’ of job over ‘bacteria-harbouring’ cross necklace, tribunal hears (telegraph.co.uk)
 Howarth, Grace – London nurse wins case for unfair dismissal over religious necklace – 10 January 2022 - London nurse wins case for unfair dismissal over religious necklace | Nursing Times
 Mrs Onuoha -v- Croydon Health Services NHS Trust – 4-14 October 2021 – Case Number 2300516 - Onuoha_v_Croydon_Health_Services_NHS_Trust__2300516.2019_-_Judgment.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk)
 Mrs Onuoha -v- Croydon Health Services NHS Trust – 4-14 October 2021 – Case Number 2300516 – Case Summary - Onuoha_v_Croydon_Health_Services_NHS_Trust_-_Summary.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk)
 Part X of the Employment Rights Act 1996 – Section 94 – 98 - Employment Rights Act 1996 (legislation.gov.uk)
 Section 10 Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)
 Section 13 Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)
 Section 19 Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)
 Section 24 Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)
 Section 26 Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)
 Section 27 Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)