In a case which was widely reported in the media, a Muslim teacher was required by her employer to remove her veil whilst she was teaching English as a second language.
However, she was allowed to wear her veil at other times. Her employer felt that wearing the veil, which covered most of the teacher’s face, was having a negative impact on children’s ability to learn the language because they were unable to pick up on her facial expressions and her voice was not clear. The teacher brought a claim against her employer, alleging that she had been discriminated against because of her religion.
The EAT decided that there was no direct discrimination, only indirect discrimination. The requirement not to wear a veil was an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice that put members of the claimant’s religion at a disadvantage compared with others not of that faith. However, the indirect discrimination was justified because it was a proportionate means of achieving legitimate aims.
Ensuring a proper education for children was an important consideration and the employer had acted reasonably in requiring the employee to remove her veil only whilst she was teaching. The claim therefore failed.
Azmi v Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council