Since 1989, UK Sikhs working on construction sites have been exempt from wearing head protection. However, because of a loophole, Sikhs in industries that were not quite so dangerous – such as those in warehouses and factories – were still required to wear helmets. Those who chose not to do so faced the prospect of disciplinary action or even dismissal. No longer.
According to an announcement by UK’s Department of Work and Pensions on Thursday, Sikhs will have the right to choose not to wear safety helmets without losing their legal protections.
“This change demonstrates that, whoever you are, whatever your background, and whatever industry you choose – if you work hard and want to get on in life, this government will be on your side,” Minister for Employment Priti Patel said.
A group named Sikh Council UK, had been running a campaign to press for this change in the law. “It will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the number of workplaces that turban wearing Sikhs can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity,” saidGurinder Singh Josan,a spokesperson for the group.
One place in which UK Sikhs were allowed to wear turbans instead of following regulatory protocols was the British Army. In a report in 2012, Lt Col Robert Howieson, 1st Battalion Scots Guards said, “The precedent for Sikh soldiers wearing turbans on parade in preference to other headdress was set long ago and it is the British Army norm.”
A new clause in Deregulation Bill 2015 announced on Thursday clarifies that exclusions listed for emergency response services and the military do not prevent Sikhs joining the army or fire services. These exceptions apply only in hazardous operational situations when wearing of safety helmet is considered vital.
In India, Sikhs riding scooters and motorcycles have been exempt from wearing helmets. In 2013, after the Delhi Court made helmets compulsory for pillion riders irrespective of gender and religion, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee opposed the decision. After that, the Delhi government announced an exemption for Sikhs under the Motor Vehicles Act.