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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)

  • Hello Kathleen,

    I know my value judgements are showing, but never in front of a patient. I am not bothered by tattoos, I work in a Naval area so they are very common and do not compromise patient safety. I was concerned about all of the chunky jewellery, especially the bracelets which could compromise patient safety.

    I too trained two sets behind Florence so standards and values and professionalism were drummed into us.

    The person in question I was referring to was not a qualified nurse but an agency 'Carer' dressed up to look like a Nurse in a Navy Blue tunic, that was what I was concerned about, the misrepresentation.

    I agree about the lanyards. My badge is clipped to my pocket and is covered up if I do anything clinical by a plastic apron.

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  • Can you blame her? What a waste of resources that it has got to the point of a tribunal. Health and safety policy has gone completely over the top. They should exercise a little humility - no big deal as long as she is aware of the risks and I can't see the wearing of a crucifix to be dangerous to patients. There are far more important things to deal with and wasting precious financial resources on defence of the trust on such an insignificant issue is stupid.

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  • I'm not sure this lady has a case. If the uniform policy states no necklaces then that's what it states (crucifix or not should make no difference).

    I have seen many nurses who i think let the 'profession' down by how they dress for work...nose studs, ridiculous earrings, ridiculous hair dye. Many will say this does not affect how a nurse performs. It probably doesn't but it affects how the public and other health professionals view nurses. They probably don't see us as equal to other professions within healthcare because this is not how 'professionals' dress.....and they'd be right.

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  • Hmmm, a few donkeys digging their heels in around devon and exeter....
    They must have loads of staff at royal devon and exter if they can afford to take clinical staff off the wards becuase of wearing crucifixes.
    People, lets worry about the more important and interesting things in life like the 4 hour A&E target , or 18 week target or something, anything, please...
    Maybe if the media didn't make such a mountian out of a mole hill too...

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  • I believe this nurse should not be allowed to wear her necklace over her uniform. As nurses we are fully aware that jewellery is not allowed. If she wants to wear her necklace then wear it under her uniform out of sight and out of harms way for infection control purposes.

    I hope she does not win the tribunal. She broke the rules and is just making a big issue about her trust discriminating on religious grounds. I am sure she will find that the trust policy states no jewellery, not no crucifixes. What a waste of the trust money in having to fight this case, just let her get back to work without the jewellery.

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  • i agree, she should not be wearing the necklace, i'm in 1st year of my training and have been told on multiple occasions not to wear any jewllary except wedding ring. i have a tattoo acroaa my chest and have to have my uniform done up so it is not on show. i accept this and abide by the rule. but i think nurses with tattoo's should not be judged because of them, am sure in a few years there will be quite a few nurses with tatts even if you can't see them.

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  • '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'

    What a snobby attitude. I agree that the wrist watch and bracelets are out of place. However, the piercings etc are part and parcel of modern culture for many [and I am a 51 year old unpierced and tattoo free male]. Nursing is often betrayed by registered nurses who behave appallingly - time for the profession to try to drag itself out of the gutter methinks...

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  • Not because so much discussion, the nurses to assess patients always respect its values and care based on mutual respect, because they have their valor and each of us as well. The only thing that counts is the respect and accept others as they are: The crucifix is a symbol that we can take no offense to others, patients have pircing, tattoos and we are not going to care?. please more tolerance.

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  • I have just read the DH news that they are amending the bare below the ellbows for Muslim staff as it offends them. This will compromise the patient. Personally, this woman is also making an unnecessary song and dance about religion. As part of our infection control and uniform policy we are not allowed wear any chains. Ironic seen as she was the infection control lead. Her own needs are before the patients,very christain.

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  • “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.”

    loaded comment and yet no further info. to explain. Is the NT guilty of inflaming their readers? It seems to have worked as various intolerances have been offered. It suggests multiple agendas and politics at work maybe least of all on the part of the nurse in question.
    I feel NT is playing cat and mouse here.

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  • A nurse's religion is personal and what they wear and how they present within that arena is entirely up to them.
    A uniform policy is what it states, A Uniform Policy.
    All nurses should adhere to it. If you cannot, then 1. why did you enter the profession and 2. Why dont you just leave it.
    We professionals want smartly presented people who wear their uniform properly and with pride.

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  • If she was a muslim they would be falling over themselves to accommodate her demands. They re-design uniforms especially for muslims in my Trust. So I am not going to criticise her for wearing the cross, this is England after all. However, I would prefer if people wore neither.

    She won't get anywhere as a British Christian in the UK though! I'd love to be re-deployed into a nursing administration role on full salary and get off the ward

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  • i can not believe the time, hot air, etc that has been wated on this subject freedom of speech with standing
    uniform rules are rules if you dont want to adhere to rules dont nurse, easy as that purely from an infection prevention view anything that we wear attracts germs do we really want to take home hospital bugs ?

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