Wearing a poppy at work

8th November 2018

A remembrance poppy has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war.

The poppy has been the subject of some controversy in recent years where individuals have refused to wear one – such as Northern Ireland footballer James Mclean – or where football teams have worn one and been fined by FIFA.

It is therefore no surprise that employers and employees are now asking for employment law advice as to their rights when it comes to wearing a poppy.

Employment law provides protection against discrimination relating to certain characteristics which people may possess. In this situation, it would be religion or belief, such as philosophical belief.

In order to rely on a philosophical belief, case law has provided some guidance on how to assess this, with the following: the belief must be a genuine belief held; it must be a belief and not an opinion or a viewpoint; it must be weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; and it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

An ex-serviceman in the case of Lisk v Shield Guardian Co Ltd stated that he wore a poppy because it was his belief that “we should pay respects to those who have given their lives for us by wearing a poppy”.

In this case, the tribunal formed the view that this belief was too “narrow” so it did not meet the requirement of showing a philosophical belief. Given that an individual only wears a poppy for a short period, once a year, then it is unlikely to show that it has a ‘weighty and substantial’ aspect on their life and behaviour.

However, a case was successful in Northern Ireland where a former police officer was refused entry into a Belfast bar for wearing a poppy. He was successful in the county court as they had formed the view that it was unlawful discrimination on the basis of his religious belief and political opinion. This was backed by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

Can your employer insist you wear a poppy to work?

As the law currently stands, the answer is no. Insisting that employees wear a poppy to work could amount to discrimination to another religious or belief of a different type. It is advised that an employer considers this if they are minded to insist their employees wear a poppy to work.

Can your employer legally stop you from wearing a poppy at work?

This would depend on the employer’s reasons for stopping you from wearing a poppy at work. In 2015, a KFC worker claimed that he was dismissed for wearing a remembrance poppy. KFC’s response was that it was due to health and safety, stating that their policy was a blanket ban on wearing any type of badge or pin whilst working in the kitchen as it poses a foreign body risk.

This was not pursued in any courts to determine whether this would be acceptable, but potentially, any court may accept this as non-discriminatory.

What can I do if I want to wear a poppy but have been denied from doing so?

This would depend on the reasons provided by the employer. However, given that an employee has the difficulty of convincing an employment tribunal that wearing a poppy is a ‘belief’ then it would be difficult to succeed in any claim for discrimination.

If my employer insists I wear a poppy, do they have to cover the costs?

No, there is no requirement for the costs to be covered. However, a reasonable employer that is insisting upon workers wearing something for, or to, work is likely to cover the costs involved, provide the poppies themselves, and would probably make a corporate donation to a relevant charity.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

Alexandra Owen

Senior Associate (Acting), FCILEX (on maternity leave)

Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

General advice How your dog could get you in trouble with the law

With ‘dangerous dogs’ back in the news, DAS Law’s Sarah Garner tells you what you need to know about a pet owner’s rights and responsibilities.

July 2019
General advice Your legal rights if you have private photos leaked

The UK Government has laws in place to combat ‘revenge porn’ and the sharing of private sexual materials with the intent to cause distress or financial gain, so what can you do if you find yourself in a similarly compromising situation?

July 2019
General advice Understanding the law on facial recognition software

National Surveillance Camera Day has raised many important issues regarding the role of surveillance cameras in modern Britain. One particularly controversial topic is the use of facial recognition software to spot criminals.

June 2019
General advice , Holiday disputes Term-time holidays: fines for taking children out of school go up 93%

The summer holidays are fast approaching and the allure of cheaper holidays during term time is rising. However, schools are taking a much harder line when it comes to issuing fines to parents who take children out of school early.

June 2019
General advice 7 things you should know about driving fines

Millions of motorists across the UK are committing driving offences they did not know existed. Robert Hodson looks at the law around some of the most common offences.

May 2019
Family disputes , General advice , Property disputes Everybody needs good neighbours. But what can be done if someone refuses to be neighbourly?

April 2019
General advice Don’t let the law come calling when using your mobile phone while driving

Sam Phillips, a trainee solicitor at DAS Law, gives us the low-down on the law on mobile phones and driving.

April 2019
General advice If your engagement doesn't have a happy ending, who gets the ring?

If your fiancé(e) or unexpectedly breaks off the engagement, who gets to keep the engagement ring?

February 2019
General advice , Motorcycling How to fight a parking ticket

There are a number of important differences between parking tickets from the local council and those enforced by private companies. DAS Law has the lowdown on parking tickets and tells you how to pursue a dispute and avoid paying penalty charges.

February 2019
General advice , Protecting your business 6 things you need to know about missing the 31 January self-assessment deadline

With 31 January deadline fast approaching, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that 5,542,000 taxpayers have still to complete their Self-Assessment tax returns. What can you do if you miss the deadline?

January 2019
General advice , Property disputes Ho-ho-home invasion: is Father Christmas trespassing?

When he enters your home, is Father Christmas actually trespassing? If he does so without your expressed permission, could he be prosecuted?

December 2018
General advice Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2018
General advice The school nativity – danger in the manger?

Antony DiPalma, solicitor at DAS Law, looks at the photographic minefield of the school nativity play.

December 2018