Sikh policeman wins £10k payout over turban row

A Sikh policeman told to remove his turban so he could wear a helmet for riot training has won £10,000 compensation from Greater Manchester Police.

An employment tribunal ruled that PC Gurmeal Singh had been subject to indirect racial and religious discrimination and harassment.

A practising Sikh, it is against PC Singh’s religion to remove his turban in public or to modify it.

During the long-running dispute with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) PC Singh was told by a sergeant: “Can you not take that thing off” and “this is what you signed up for”.

The tribunal ruled this was an “offensive violation of dignity”.

PC Singh said he suffered panic attacks, stress and palpitations over the issue and was off sick from work.

The tribunal rejected 13 of his 15 allegations but found he suffered a single case of indirect racial and religious discrimination because the rules on wearing helmets for riot training lacked “clarity”.

It also found that he suffered harassment during an “unpleasant” meeting with his sergeant.

PC Singh was awarded £3,500 compensation for indirect discrimination and £6,500 for harassment. He was also awarded £1,914 payment for loss of earnings. He says he intends to donate 10 per cent to a children’s charity.

During the hearing evidence emerged of internal confusion within Greater Manchester Police about policy on turbans.

The Manchester force employs three Sikh officers out of almost 13,000 staff.

PC Singh is still employed on “recuperative duties”. After the hearing he said: “I’m looking to return to work and see how GMP accommodate me”.

The tribunal said GMP should amend its uniform and equipment policy to accommodate Sikh officers.

GMP’s Assistant Chief Officer Julia Rogers said: “We felt we acted in the officer’s best interests, but accept the findings from this tribunal and have already updated the policies this relates to.”

She said GMP would work with the newly-formed British Police Sikh Association to resolve any ongoing issues.

Earlier this year the Association announced it was seeking to develop bullet-proof turbans so that Sikh police officers can join firearms units or riot squads.

Last year West Midlands Police spent £100,000 trying to find protective headgear for one Sikh officer who applied to join the counter-terrorist Operational Support Unit.

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