The European Court has again considered ‘neutrality’ as a possible reason for employers not to allow workers to wear of signs of religious and other beliefs.
The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has held that an employer may be able to justify a rule banning at least customer-facing staff at work from wearing any visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs, if the employer can satisfy the court that there is a ‘genuine need’ for it to display political, philosophical or religious neutrality.
However such a policy limited to ‘conspicuous, large-sized’ signs of belief etc may well be unlawful direct discrimination.
Importantly, the approach of the UK courts to ‘neutrality’ as an aim to justify indirect discrimination has yet to be determined. Even before Brexit, British decisions would have been needed to clarify the position in this country.
Also since this ECJ decision is after 31st December 2020, under the Brexit rules a UK court may have regard to it but does not have to.
The case is IX v WABE, MH Muller v MJ, www.bailii.org/eu/cases/EUECJ/2021/C80418.html.