The Sikh Council UK today gave a cautious welcome to the news the Government is intending to close a loophole to allow Sikhs to wear their turban in all workplaces.
The welcome news comes after a long campaign that began with senior representatives of Sikh Council UK first meeting and raising this as an important issue for UK Sikhs with Government officials over a year ago on 17 January 2013.
The proposed plan will extend the exemption that already exists in the Employment Act 1989 that allows Sikhs to wear their turbans in place of hard hats on building sites to now cover most other working environments. There are still proposed to be restrictions in the military, fire service and police forces.
Construction sites are acknowledged to be one of the most dangerous workplaces but the fact the law does not cover other environments where hard hats are commonly worn as a safety measure, such as factories and warehouses has always been viewed as an anomaly.
Secretary General of Sikh Council UK, Gurmel Singh said, “I welcome this news. It will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the number of workplaces that Sikhs can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity.”
He added, “Members of the Sikh Council UK have worked hard to achieve this milestone but we are still awaiting the actual wording and details of the legislation. We actually received written confirmation in December last year from Mike Penning MP, Minister at the Department for Works and Pensions that the Government understood the issue and were looking at all legislative options including primary legislation.”
Executive Committee member of Sikh Council UK, Jagjit Singh said, “It appears the Government has decided to devote parliamentary time to resolving this issue for which we are grateful. We have been liaising with Ministers and officials for a while now and we hope to receive the full details and wording within a few days and will be in a position to comment further then.”
The issue of wearing hard hats in place of Turbans has been an ongoing issue for Sikhs since the passing of the Employment Act 1989. In recent times the importance given to Health & Safety legislation by employers has increased and just in the last year Sikh Council UK are aware of individual cases where Sikhs have been dismissed from longstanding employment due to their refusal to remove their turban and wear a hard hat.
Gurmel Singh added, “This issue is important for Sikhs and is one of the issues we have been raising with Government and opposition politicians for the last couple of years. I am pleased with the response and support we are receiving to our work from all politicians. Alongside these other issues the Sikh Council UK will continue working to seek full disclosure of all documents and facts in relation to UK Government involvement before, during and after the attack on the Golden Temple as well as during the ensuing State of Emergency and during and after the Sikh genocide following Indira Gandhi’s assassination in October 1984.”