At this time, the majority of people within the UK take time to remember those who have served their Country in the World Wars and subsequent conflicts. Whilst a seemingly innocuous item, the ‘poppy’ can become a source of contention as well as a source of urban myth, particularly in an employment context and so, we will try and give a reasoned overview of the wearing of poppies and other items of remembrance.
It has been reported that employees have been prevented from wearing a poppy for reasons of ‘Health and Safety’; particularly within the hospitality sector. Whilst it is fair to apply this reasoning to employees working within a food preparation/serving role, where an unsecured poppy may contaminate people’s food; it is not an acceptable practice to apply a ‘blanket ban’ for all staff on this basis. The generic citation of health and safety to impose ridiculous rules on employees is a continued source of frustration for those working within the Health & Safety field, including the Chair of the Health & Safety Executive.
It has been suggested that stopping employees from wearing poppies infringes their rights under the Equality Act 2010. However, in Lisk v. Shield Guardian Co Ltd; the Tribunal Judge ruled that whilst a person can have a ‘passionate belief’ in their ‘obligation to show respect for the sacrifices of others’ by wearing a poppy, the belief is too narrow to be characterised as a ‘philosophical belief’ and therefore falls outside of the protections offered by the Equality Act.
However, where an employer requires all of its employees to display a poppy whilst working in public, this could fall foul of the Equality Act. This is because an individual’s own personal beliefs, may be compromised by being required to wear a poppy at work.
The upshot being, that above all; unless there are sensible reasons for barring the wearing of poppies in the workplace, the decision of whether to wear one or not, should be a down to the individual to make in accord with their own beliefs.