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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: PM pledges legal changes to allow crosses at work

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Even if two British Christians lose a landmark European Court case to allow them to wear symbols of their faith at work, David Cameron plans to change UK legislation to let them do so.

His stance came to light yesterday during exchanges at Prime Minister’s Question Time, when he was asked about the case of Nadia Eweida.
 
Eweida appealed to the European Court of Human Rights after her employer, British Airways, banned her from wearing a crucifix while working at Heathrow Airport in 2006 – it was against the airline’s dress code to wear any form of jewellery.
 
She was sent home on refusing to remove the cross or accept a non-uniformed job, but lost her case at an industrial tribunal, which ruled that she had not suffered religious discrimination.
 
But David Davis, a Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary, described the decision as a “disgraceful piece of political correctness” and asked the PM why the government was opposing her appeal, which is due to take place in September.
 
“I cannot believe the government is supporting the suppression of religious freedom in the workplace so what are we going to do in this case?” he added.
 
In reply, Cameron said that he fully supported employees’ rights to wear religious symbols at work, adding: “I think it is an absolutely vital freedom.”
 
He continued: “What we will do if it turns out that the law has the intention [of banning such symbols], as has come out in this case, then we will change the law and make clear that people can wear religious symbols at work.”
 
Eweida has been joined in her legal battle by Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was told by her employer, The Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust, to remove a necklace on which she too had hung a crucifix.
 
It is the first time that the Prime Minister has explicitly promised to change the law if the two women lose their case – despite the fact that the government intends to argue against their appeal in Court.
 
But the move would mean that people of faith would be given formal legal protection to wear religious symbols in the workplace, which has never been the case before.
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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