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Christian nurse takes crucifix row to tribunal


A Christian nurse who claims she has been prevented from expressing her religious beliefs after being asked to remove a crucifix necklace is to be heard at an employment tribunal next week.

Shirley Chaplin was re-assigned to an office role when she refused to take off the necklace at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital last September.

She will begin her case for discrimination on religious grounds in her home city of Exeter.

The trust said the policy was administered due to health and safety fears about patients grabbing necklaces. It said the policy was nothing to do with the crucifix specifically.

The court must decide if her employer “subjected her to discrimination on grounds of her religion” after attempts to resolve the matter failed, the trust said.

Previously employed on the infection and isolation ward caring for the elderly and vulnerable, she has been redeployed to a nursing administration role.

That is “with full pay protection, pending ongoing attempts to find an acceptable compromise”, the trust added.

Lynn Lane, the trust’s human resources director, said: “For the trust, this has always been about compliance with our agreed uniform policy and the safety of staff and patients.

“Sadly, it appears that Mrs Chaplin may have been deflected from agreeing a sensible and pragmatic resolution of this dispute by the involvement of other parties outside the trust.”


Readers' comments (33)

  • I agree with some of the above comments although uniform policy states no jewellery (except a single wedding band) and if I am not mistaken a necklace is jewellery and is not part of the uniform the policy and it should not be contested. Also to say that if she wears a long chain it will not be seen everyone else has to adhere to the policy, but totally agree with the head scarf situation as well and when you work in this environment you are aware of the dress code so it is your career choice to work in this position. I also think that you should be impartial and your religious beliefs should not be on display as it may cause issues within the work place and also to service users. Have your religious we all do but do not have it on display this is a private thing for you

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  • A wristwatch with a second hand!!! I don't think so if we're talking infection control. A fob watch, yes.

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  • religion!!! no matter what any religious belief anyone has, there always seems to be conflict!!! Is she insecure or something that she needs to have this idol object with here at all times! if she wants this symbol to give her a sense of security and belonging why doesn't she just get a tattoo!!

    necklaces with crosses, headscarf - if anything else is accepted in the clinical area then I'm wearing my crystal necklaces because i don't see why there are rules for some beliefs not for others!!

    If you want to be a nurse be a nurse not a walking advert for you religious belief!!

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  • If the uniform policy is no necklaces then that is the uniform policy, no exceptions should be made. Additionally I think that from a safety point of view, necklaces should not be worn anyway.

    I saw a 'male nurse' in my clinic recently, dressed in a navy blue nurse's tunic top complete with fob watch. Somehow I just knew he wasn't a 'proper nurse'. The piercings, tattoos, multiple earrings, chunky bracelets and huge wrist watch somehow gave him away! Did I mention the nicotine stained fingers?

    Sadly, members of the general public may not have realised he wasn't a qualified Nurse, further tarnishing our image.

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  • I'm Catholic, wear a crucifix most of the time, and I'm an ICU nurse.

    I too, trained in the late 80's - short, clean nails, no polish, (we had no make up), hair up, wedding band as only jewellery.

    If no one else working on Ms. Chaplin's unit is allowed to wear a chain or necklace, I don't see the issue in her not wearing it either. However, if others are not forbidden to wear chains of ANY kind, I think she has a case!

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  • Honestly, this is completely rediculous. I'm sure this nurse is quite capable of ascertaining the risks and no doubt wouldn't contemplate wearing it if the risks were unacceptable. This is just a petty, nonsensical blame culture - hierarchy thing which seems to be so deeply ingrained in the field of nursing. I doubt a doctor would receive the same kind of petty treatment under similar circumstances. I'd also point out that if the chain was made of silver then the risk in terms of infection would be minimal as silver has significant antibacterial properties. Furthermore, allowing this person to wear her crucific is the least the nhs trust can do as a good will gesture - they probably owe her hundreds of pounds from meal breaks and time owed, as many nurses throughout the country cannot take breaks due to inadequate and often dangerous staffing levels.

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  • Lanyards they have to be the worst as regards infection control !! Necklaces why not just wear them under the uniform like I do with my medic-alert and I trained in the 70's no problems arose then or now.

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  • Lanyards they have to be the worst as regards infection control !! Necklaces why not just wear them under the uniform like I do with my medic-alert and I trained in the 70's no problems arose then or now.

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  • When I trained in the 70's we were not allowed to wear jewellery, apart from a plain wedding ring and stud earrings. If the nurse in question really wants to keep her crucifix on her person she could keep it in her bra, that's what I do with my pentacle necklace. I don't know where that leaves men..

    In our Trust we are not allowed to wear lanyards on our badges if we work in clinical areas.

    Tattoos and piercings do not affect a person's nursing abilities. I have neither, I'm not keen on either but how can they make someone a poor nurse? Let's celebrate our differences.

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  • This is way out of proportion. The first things you are told during your training are what you can and can't wear, how to should look and how you should act. Why is it that when you qualify you think you can change this and do what you want. Wearing a crucifix is not like wearing a pair of shoes with a slightly higher heel then allowed. You are obviously able to have an opinion and can, if necessary, voice that opinion in the right area. You can also seek to change things in the right manner. I have no religious beliefs but respect others that do. I once looked after a patient who had strong religious beliefs and who spoke to me over zealously. I found this offensive but just let him talk and did not react. This is how I thought nurses should be. Alternatively, as a patient, I would feel uncomfortable with a nurse who expressed religious views unless asked to do so. We have a life outside nursing where we can express our views. Lets stick to simply nursing whilst in the work area and abide by the regulations we are informed about from day 1.

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