Sikh blocked from working at top London hotels over "no beards" policy wins £7,000 in compensation for religious discrimination

Friday 6 December 2019

Mukhtiar Singh of the Garden Court Chambers Employment Law Team represented the claimant.

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A Sikh man who was blocked from working at five-star London hotels by an employment agency after being told the hotels operate a 'no beards policy' has won £7,000 in compensation following a ruling by Judge Holly Stout at the Central London Employment Tribunal.

New Zealander Raman Sethi, 34, who was backpacking in Europe, was told by employment agency Elements Personnel Services Ltd in London, that it couldn't offer him work after receiving 'grooming' complaints from five-star clients. They included an email from Claridge's, reading: 'No pony tails, no facial hair...please ensure none of that here at Claridge's.’

The agency, which specialises in providing staff for London's five-star hotels, told Mr Sethi that it was not worth his while being on their books as his Sikh religious requirement that he not shave his beard meant they would not be able to get him shifts with clients including The Connaught, Claridge's and The Dorchester.

Employment Judge Stout ruled that the agency's 'no beards' policy was discriminatory and placed Mr Sethi himself, at a particular disadvantage because it is a fundamental tenet of the Sikh faith, to which Mr Sethi adheres, for a male to have an uncut beard.’

She found that the hotels had not in fact been consulted by the agency over whether they would make an exception on religious grounds and awarded him £7,102.17 compensation, including £5,000 for 'injury to feelings'.

Mukhtiar Singh of Garden Court Chambers said:

"The case is important because it shows that a no-beard policy will be subject to close scrutiny by the tribunals and courts in order to be satisfied that there is a legitimate aim and if so whether the policy is a proportionate means to achieve that aim.

When courts have considered no-beard polices before, the cases have tended not to support Sikhs, but in my view this decision demonstrates a wider awareness of the importance of uncut hair to many Sikhs.

Employers will need to explore making exceptions - for example, wearing a net if handling food. Sikhs should feel empowered to challenge no-beard policies."

Mukhtiar Singh has donated his legal fees to Khalsa Aid, which provides assistance in disaster and war-torn areas around the world.

This case has been widely reported in the media including the Evening Standard and the Telegraph

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