In our September newsletter we reported the claim of PC Gurmeal Singh:
Sikh policeman says “I felt that I was on ‘Only Fools and Horses'”
Sikh police officer Gurmeal Singh has brought employment tribunal proceedings against Greater Manchester Police for religious and race discrimination on account of his turban. We could be forgiven for thinking that “the turban issue” was resolved in the early days of discrimination law when a high profile case was brought shortly after the Race Relations Act 1976 and led to the Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976. However, Mr Singh maintains that he was not allowed to use pedal cycles without wearing a helmet so that he had to cover the same area by foot “when others had the luxury of pedal cycle policing”. According to the SikhiWiki website (yes, it does really exist with that name), employers need to make suitable adjustments to allow Sikhs to wear turbans so that (as legislated by section 11, Employment Act 1989) Sikhs on construction sites do not need to wear safety helmets but damages for injuries are limited to those recoverable had a safety helmet been worn. Mr Singh also maintains that his application for promotion was held up for 18 months after an assistant chief constable expressed concern that he did not wear an official police badge on his turban.
Mr Singh says that when he was asked to wear a modified turban he felt that he was in a famous episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ in which Del Boy, taking a delivery of 200 “crash turbans”, said that they were the “essential accessory for fashion-conscious, motorbike-riding Sikhs throughout Peckham”.
Mr Singh has won his claim, at least in part. The tribunal found that he had been subjected to indirect discrimination and harassment. However, 13 of his 15 complaints were rejected and the tribunal found that he suffered a single case of indirect race and religious discrimination when he was included in a group email to officers confirming that riot training was mandatory and he would therefore have to remove his turban.
He was awarded £3,500 for indirect discrimination, £6,500 for harassment after suffering psychological damage, injury to feelings and personal injury and £1914 for loss of earnings. The case is reported to have cost £250,000.