Rai v Al Mutari: Domestic workers should not be forced to wear hijab

[2013] EqLR 188

Date:  01/02/2013;  

Reading Employment Tribunal (Employment Judge R Lewis; M Moore, VH Parsons), 15 November 2012, 22pp.

Miss Rai was employed as a domestic servant by Mr and Mrs Al Mutari. She is Nepalese and a Hindu. She began work for the Respondents, who are Muslim, in Kuwait and came with them to England in 2009 to look after their family and children. She left her employment in September 2011 and brought a large number of claims.

The Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant was instructed to wear a hijab or headscarf both inside and outside the home. The Claimant said that she felt uncomfortable about wearing the hijab in the UK. In contrast, Mrs Al Mutari covered her face outside the home but removed the covering in her home. The Tribunal regarded this as "a clear mark of distinction of status between them". It also found that: "The daily treatment of the Claimant by the Respondents constituted recurrent, consistent The Tribunal held that the requirement to wear the hijab amounted to harassment related both to the Claimant's sex and to her religion.  "We find that the instruction and the requirement constituted unwanted conduct, and that the Claimant wore the hijab with reluctance. We find that it was related to her gender, in that a man would not have been required to wear a hijab or any other form of required clothing. We uphold the claim of discrimination on grounds of gender."

The Tribunal went on to hold that: "The instruction and requirement created an intimidating and humiliating environment for the Claimant related to religion, in that as a Hindu and non practising˜Muslim, she felt uncomfortable to wear clothing which was a public statement of a religious identity which was not her identity. We therefore uphold the claim of harassment related to religion." 

The Claimant was represented by Jamila Duncan-Bosu.