Beards banned by building firm behind Plymouth tower blocks

Mears have banned beards for health and safety reasons

Business bosses have been warned to take a “common sense approach” to health and safety after a building firm banned beards.

Firms need to consider “cultural, religious and medical needs” when providing health and safety instructions to staff in the workplace, according to leading employment lawyer is calling for businesses

The call comes after construction firm Mears banned its workers from having beards, citing health and safety grounds.

Mears banned facial hair as it ‘prevent workers from wearing dust masks.’ADVERTISING

Mears Student Life, part of the Mears Group, is currently advertising student flats at Crescent Point on its website.

The huge development in the city centre is taking shape and the first students are expected to move in in September.

The Crescent Point development is taking shapeUnite the Union has issued a statement condemning the ‘hair-raising’ move.

Now Yunus Lunat, partner and head of employment law at Leeds-based law firm Ison Harrison, is urging a common sense approach from bosses to avoid potential religious and cultural pitfalls.

He said that making decisions based on savings could “alienate” staff and create unnecessary divisions in the workplace.

Mr Lunat fears that the ‘beard ban’ could see other building firms following suit, resulting in an attempt to ban Sikhs from wearing turbans in a similar situation to the banning of headscarves at work following a European court ruling in March this year.

The European Court of Justice ruled that companies were able to ban “the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign”.

The ruling made clear that if the ban was only applied to Muslim members of staff it could still constitute discrimination.

How Crescent Point will look when it’s finishedIn order to enforce, companies need to have a pre-existing policy in prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols and would not be able to ban staff from wearing headscarves on the “wishes of a customer”.

Mr Lunat saidd: “For a major national employer in the construction industry to make such a workplace decree under the guise of safety of its employees is staggering.

“Whilst concerns relating to safety may be plausible one questions how sporting a beard can pose a real safety risk on a construction site, unless construction sites have taken to preparing pre-packed meals and food items?

“Surely the construction industry has more pressing safety concerns than worrying about beards?

“This is a delicate issue especially in the current climate. There are potentially huge cultural, religious and personal issues to be considered here with sensitivity being the focus not just cost.

“Workers have been issued a like it or lump it ultimatum with no consultation whatsoever and threats of disciplinary action should the new workplace rules not be properly adhered to.”

He added: “Before implementing any workplace safety policy that involves the wearing of specialist equipment, employers such as Mears should carry out a full consultation.

“To avoid any contentious issues it is crucial that the safety policy recognises the diversity of the workforce, its aims to ensure diverse recruitment and the principle that workers should be consulted and given a choice of correctly specified types of safety masks so they can choose the most suitable to meet their own needs.”

Mears’ group health and safety director, Mark Elkington hit back, saying: “We are pretty surprised that Unite, who claim to have the safety of workers at heart have taken this disappointing stance.

“Every employer in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that employees working in dusty or otherwise potentially hazardous environments are properly protected and in recent years employers have been prosecuted for failing to fulfil this duty.

Source: Plymouth Herald

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