In Sethi-v- Elements Personnel Services Ltd, it was held that a temporary work agency indirectly discriminated against a practising Sikh, when it refused to keep him on its books because he would not be able to shave his beard for religious reasons. The agency had a “no beards” policy, which had allegedly been introduced to meet the needs of its clients, which were predominantly 5 star hotels. Whilst the Tribunal accepted that the agency wished to satisfy the needs of its clients, it held that a blanket ban on beards was not proportionate. The agency could have accepted the Sikh worker onto its books and could have then asked specific clients on a case-by-case basis whether it could make an exception for a Sikh worker.
Whilst employers/agencies are permitted to prioritise the requirements of their clients, a blanket dress code policy which is not applied reasonably or flexibly is likely to be discriminatory.