CHANDIGARH (TIP): In the run up to general elections in the UK scheduled for early May, the 7.5-lakh strong Sikh community there has got a gift in the shape of a new law that allows turban in all industries.
So far, Sikhs were exempt from wearing safety helmets in some industries like construction, but were required to wear safety helmets in others like factories, warehouses and transport. The issue of wearing safety helmets instead of turbans had been haunting Sikhs since the passing of the Employment Act, 1989 by the UK Parliament. Though turban-wearing Sikhs were exempted from wearing safety helmets at construction sites, safety standards set up in other workplaces over the years did not offer the same provision.
It meant that members of the Sikh community were unable to follow their chosen professions because of the insistence on the need to wear safety helmets, which obviously cannot be worn on top of a turban. Even simple jobs like truck driving were out of bound for Sikhs because of the rules.
An amendment to do away with the anomaly was introduced to the Deregulation Bill by the government with cross-party support in March 2014. The Bill was finally granted Royal Assent on Thursday, making it into a law. There will, however, still be limited exceptions, such as for specific roles in the armed forces and emergency response situations.
Welcoming the move, The Sikh Council UK spokesperson Gurinder Singh Josan said, “The move will open new avenues for close to 2.5 lakh turban-wearing Sikhs in the UK. We campaigned for the change. The UK is a torch-bearer when it comes to giving Sikhs their rights. We wish countries like Canada follow suit.”
Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon, who spoke in favour of the amendment in the House of Lords, said, “It was a much awaited move. The looming elections helped fast-forward the process and we welcome it.”