London: Sikhs in Britain will no longer face legal action for wearing turbans in majority of workplaces after the government announced a new set of rules on Thursday.
"Turban-wearing Sikhs will now have the right to choose not to wear head protection and will be exempt from legal requirements to wear a safety helmet in the majority of workplaces," an official statement from the British government said.
Since 1989, Sikhs working in the construction industry have been exempted from rules requiring head protection but because of a legal loophole, those in less dangerous industries, such as those working in factories and warehouses, were not.
A new landmark clause was added to the Deregulation Bill 2015 to extend the existing exemption in the Employment Act to all workplaces.
"This change demonstrates that, whoever you are, whatever your background, and whatever industry you choose, if you work hard and want to get on in life, this government will be on your side," Priti Patel, the Indian-origin minister for employment and Indian diaspora champion, was quoted as saying.
"As the prime minister's Indian Diaspora Champion as well as employment minister, I'm delighted to be part of the government that has made this change. It makes me proud that Britain is the home of such a talented, ambitious and hardworking community," she added.
As per the new rules, should an individual suffer injuries as a consequence of not wearing head protection, employers will be legally protected through the extension of limited liability.
"There are exclusions for emergency response services and the military, which apply only in hazardous operational situations when the wearing of a safety helmet is considered necessary," the statement read.
This may include, for example, entering a burning building or those where protective clothing needs to enclose the whole body in situations such as bomb disposal, or dealing with hazardous materials like chemical leaks, biohazards or radiation.
This will not, however, bar Sikhs from the armed forces, police and fire services, and the new clause will make no blanket ban on participation by turban-wearing Sikhs. There are about 4,000 Sikhs in police and 230 across the armed forces.
Welcoming the new rules, Gurinder Singh Josan, spokesperson for Sikh Council, Britain, said: "We are pleased that parliament listened to our campaign and enabled this vital change in the law."
"It will make a real difference to Sikhs in Britain by increasing the number of workplaces that turban wearing Sikhs can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity," he added.