The Government may bring in new laws to give employees the right to wear a crucifix at work after the Prime Minister supported the appeal of a woman barred from wearing one while working for British Airways.
Nadia Eweida says that she was forced from her job in 2006 for refusing to take off her crucifix at work, despite other religious symbols being on display. She went to a tribunal and lost and in May 2010 was refused permission to go to the Supreme Court. However, she is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights in September.
At Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday, David Davis MP said that BA’s decision to ban Ms Eweida’s crucifix had been “a disgraceful piece of political correctness”, which Mr Cameron endorsed.
Mr Cameron said: “I fully support the right of people to wear religious symbols at work; I think it is absolutely a vital religious freedom. What we will do is (if the ban is upheld) we will change the law and make clear that people can wear religious emblems at work.”
However, some employment law experts have criticised Mr Cameron’s comments. Darren Newman, employment law trainer said: “Specifically changing the law to allow religious symbols to be worn seems an unnecessary step. There is no rule banning religious symbols at work and the issue has only arisen in a tiny number of cases.
“It is generally a bad idea to change the law to accommodate unusual cases that just happen to have received a lot of publicity. Any new law would cause more problems than it solved and lead to considerable uncertainty. … The potential for argument and costly litigation is enormous.”
The loss of the case in Strasbourg would mean that the Government would be expected to bring forth legislation providing protection for religious workers as soon as the parliamentary timetable allowed.