Why we don’t need a law on religious symbols at work

I’m a bit miffed by David Cameron. This is highly unusual for me, I have to say, but his comments last week that he wants to legislate to allow employees to wear crosses at work were really rather pointless and ill thought out, if I may be so presumptuous. And here’s why, IMHO. It all started by a discussion on the Eweida case, which tends to be little understood. You may remember the press headlines; Eweida worked for BA and they don’t allow any employees to wear religious symbols obviously about their person unless they cannot be covered up, such as a hijab. BA has, as is their right, a very strict dress code policy, right down to the colour of the tights you can wear as I understand. Just like the idea that a Big Mac tastes like a Big Mac if you are in Sydney or Sidcup, they like people to look the same world over. BA have since changes their dress code policy and this case is proceeding now to establish a principle.

So, first things first, it is not illegal to wear a cross, or indeed any other religious symbol at work. However companies may restrict this on certain grounds, such as health and safety. Presumably if this suggestion did become legislation we would still need to stop people from having chains dangling less they get dragged into something unpleasant. The main issue is that such legislation would have to apply to all religious symbols and dress, and not just crosses. And would it just be religion or belief too? We have a wide and widening definition of religion and belief in this country. If Mr Cameron goes ahead I can feel the Jedi Knight argument starting again. And goodness knows what will happen if Tom Cruise turns up. Next problem is that the wearing of a cross is not a specific requirement of Christianity. So how would we determine the difference between required symbols and dress, and those that are a personal preference? In other words, this was just a sound bite and would be unnecessary bureaucracy , something which we need less of, not more.

However, notwithstanding all of this comment, Mr Cameron did promise to remove one piece of legislation before enacting any others when he came to power. So I will retract all of the above if he removes the AWR as a direct swap.

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