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What's acceptable

Physiotherapists in England are to receive definitive guidance on what religious symbols and styles of cultural dress they can wear while on duty.

A new NHS appearance code is being finalised by NHS Employers – the organisation which represents NHS management in England. It is expected, among other things, to set out whether Christians can wear crucifixes and whether Muslim staff can wear veils, hijabs or burkas.

At present there is no central policy on such matters and most NHS trusts devise their own codes of dress and appearance, taking account of infection control, health and safety and religious or cultural considerations.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said NHS Employers was developing guidance that would be sent to all NHS bodies: 'This guidance will provide those who have to make the necessary decisions, along with those affected, with information and direction to deal with situations where dress codes, staff uniforms, religious considerations and health and safety come together.'

The guide is expected to build on the Commission for Racial Equality's employment code of practice and the guidance on religious belief at work issued by the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service.  ACAS says that employers can discriminate on religious grounds providing they show 'that there is a legitimate aim and that the practice is proportionate to that aim'.

An NHS Employers spokeswoman would not speculate on the publication date. She said: 'We are doing a piece of work in this area. It is a complex and sensitive issue, so we will be discussing it with employers and a wide range of stakeholders.'

FURTHER INFORMATION

We explore the issue of dress code and body adornment further in the next issue of Frontline

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Article Information

Author(s)

Mark Gould

Issue date

5 February 2007

Volume number

13

Issue number

3

Tagged as

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