My employer has given me protective clothing for a job. Do I have to wear it?

Yes. Your employer can tell you to wear safety equipment (such as gloves, a visor, boots, etc.). If you don't, your employer is entitled to take disciplinary action, including excluding you from the workplace and possible dismissal.

You are required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) to:

  • take reasonable care for your own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what you do or do not do;
  • co-operate with your employer on health and safety;
  • correctly use work items provided by your employer, including personal protective equipment (PPE), in accordance with training or instructions; and
  • not interfere with or misuse anything provided for your health and safety or welfare.

Any protective gear has to fit and be appropriate for the situation. It shouldn't cause you pain or serious discomfort. If it does, you should negotiate alternative equipment or arrangements. Don't be put off. Sometimes employers can, out of caution, interpret health and safety rules too rigidly.

And of course you should never be required to pay for protective equipment or clothing that you need. However, if your employer buys the gear, they are entitled to keep it when you leave.

There is more information on this issue on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

You should also consider raising the issue with your union health and safety rep, if you have one.

In 2015, the law changed to formally allow Sikhs to wear turbans in workplaces across the UK. There are some exemptions for reasons of safety (for example, the armed forces or firefighters in an emergency response).

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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