New guidance on preventing hair discrimination in schools

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published guidance in October stating that preventing school pupils from wearing their hair in natural Afro styles at school is likely to be unlawful.

The law on discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 includes race as a protected characteristic which means it is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another because of their race or ethnicity. A person’s race or ethnicity includes Afro hair or certain other hairstyles that are associated with their ethnicity.

EHRC legal support

The EHRC recently funded Ruby Williams in her legal case against her school. The school had sent her home on multiple occasions because of her Afro hair which the school considered was not in accordance with its uniform policy as it was not “of reasonable size and length”.

Ruby had tried to adapt her hairstyle to meet the school’s policy, but these were time consuming, expensive and had a negative impact on Ruby’s mental health.

Ruby received an out of court settlement of £8,500 and the school entered into a legally binding agreement to remove the discriminatory uniform policy.

What do this mean for schools?

Schools should be mindful of uniform policies which could be directly or indirectly discriminatory to an individual’s race or ethnicity.

If your uniform policy bans certain hairstyles without exceptions on the basis of race or ethnicity, this could make them unlawful.

If you would like advice on this or help drafting your uniform policy, please contact one of our schools lawyers today.