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Dreadlocks, Rastafarians and Religious Belief

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The EAT (Elias P. presiding) has dismissed an appeal in which it was suggested that a Rastafarian who wore his hear in dreadlocks was discriminated against because of his religious beliefs.

The case turns largely on its facts (and contains an amusing analysis of when matted hair is messy, and when it is not!), but has two points of general interest:-

  • the tribunal and EAT accepted, without demurral, the employer's concession that Rastafarianism is a religious belief within the meaning of the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003. There has previously been academic debate over whether Rastafarianism so qualified. Rastafarians are not protected under the race discrimination legislation as they do not qualify as an 'ethnic group' (Crown Suppliers v Dawkins (1993)).
  • the EAT accepted the employer's argument that it was legitimate to have rules requiring tidy hair (irrespective of whether it was worn in dreadlocks)

Harris v NKL Automotive