Alan McCormack | Senior Associate

To beard or not to beard

Not to beard would appear to be the answer for construction company Mears, who have banned workers from having beards on the grounds of health and safety. Workers at a London site were told that the company were banning beards in order that dust masks can be safely fitted, and the company’s health and safety director has confirmed the policy will be applied throughout the company.

Mears has been clear that religious and medical exemptions for beards will be permitted, as all employers have to be aware of the potentially discriminatory consequences of blanket, firm-wide policies which may place a particular group at a substantial disadvantage. I can, of course, understand that some religions encourage or indeed require beards as part of strict religious observance; however I am unaware of any medical requirement to have a beard!

The decision has met with criticism from unions, who allege that Mears are “penny-pinching” and insisting that workers be clean-shaven so that they can buy cheap face masks rather than more expensive ones which can cover beards; this has been roundly rejected by Mears who insist that the policy is to protect health and safety.

If you are an employer who requires advice in relation to employee dress codes and/or policies and are concerned about the possible consequences of a policy being discriminatory, or are an employee who thinks that a policy being applied by your employer may be discriminatory, contact us today to arrange an initial free consultation. Call us on 0333 222 1855 or fill in our online enquiry form by clicking here.

Alan McCormack

Alan McCormack

Employment Law Team

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