The claimant in Begum v Pedagogy Auras UK Ltd T/A Barley Lane Montessori Day Nursery was offered an apprenticeship as a trainee nursery assistant at a children's nursery, after a half day trial. She was an observant Muslim whose religious belief required her to wear, in addition to a hijab covering her head, a jilbab to cover the rest of her body, reaching from her neck to her ankles.

During the interview at which she was offered the job, there was some discussion of the employer's policies, including uniform. At this point, the manager of the nursery looked at the claimant's feet, in order to advise her on non-slip footwear, and noticed that the claimant's jilbab was covering her shoes and touching the floor. The manager, thinking that this might constitute a trip hazard for the claimant, her future colleagues or the children at the nursery, asked the claimant whether she might wear a shorter jilbab to work.

The Tribunal found that there was no indication that the claimant was offended by this proposal; the interview ended on a positive note and the employers expected the claimant to start work. However, she subsequently brought proceedings, claiming she had suffered a detriment by reason of the manifestation of her religious belief. She alleged that she had been told that she would not be permitted to wear a jilbab of the appropriate length and therefore was unable to accept the post.

The claim was dismissed by the Tribunal and EAT. The Tribunal had found that, on the facts, there had not been any discrimination. The claimant had been allowed to wear a jilbab, even full-length, provided it did not constitute a tripping hazard. And, even if there had been indirect discrimination on grounds of religion, it was justified.

The PCP (provision, custom or practice) applied by the nursery was that staff should not wear any garments that might constitute a tripping hazard to themselves or the children in their care. It applied equally to staff of all religions, but if it did put some Muslim women at a particular disadvantage, any indirect discrimination was justified as being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim – protecting the health and safety of staff and children.