A Muslim nursery worker has lost a legal battle to wear a traditional Islamic dress at work after it was deemed a tripping hazard.
Tamanna Begum, a Sunni Muslim from Essex, wanted to wear the head-to-toe gown – known as a ‘jilbab’ – to work at Barley Lane Montessori Day Nursery, but the manager asked her to wear a slightly shorter dress that did not cover her feet.
Begum said she would discuss this with her family before her first day in the job, but then did not show up to work. Instead, she took her new employer to a tribunal, claiming religious discrimination and saying she had been ‘insulted’ by the request.
She refused to accept that the jilbab posed a health and safety risk, saying she wore it while exercising. She added that it would be “against her morals and beliefs” to wear a shorter dress and that the nursery discriminated against her due to her “ethnic or cultural background”.
The Daily Mail reports, however, that the Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld an earlier ruling by the East London employment tribunal, which said that the gown was “reasonably regarded as a tripping hazzard”. The judge, Daniel Serota QC, noted that Begum was only asked to wear a shorter version of the jilbab, not banned from wearing it at all.
The original tribunal’s ruling added: “At no point was she told that she could not wear a jilbab while working at the nursery.” It also said that health and safety concerns should apply to everyone no matter what their religion and that the request was a proportionate means of “protecting the health and safety of staff and children”.
The nursery also already employed four other Muslim women who wore hijabs and were given time to pray, as well as time off for Ramadan.
A spokesman for the National Secular Society said: “Clearly the health and safety of staff and children is the priority here.
“There is not an unlimited right to manifest your religion in the workplace. The employer made a very reasonable, practical request and we are pleased to see the judge siding with them.”