Backlash forces BA to review ban

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The Independent Online

British Airways has caved in to pressure and announced a rethink of its ban on staff wearing the cross.

After a storm of criticism, Willie Walsh, the airline's chief executive, indicated that religious symbols in the form of small lapel badges might now be allowed. Mr Walsh said BA policy on uniforms needed to change following the furore over the case of Nadia Eweida.

The 55-year-old has been refusing to return to work at Heathrow since management told her last month she could not wear a necklace bearing a small cross over her uniform. She lost an appeal against the decision this week although she had the right to take a second appeal.

Ms Eweida said BA's statement was "good news" and she hoped it would help her win her case. "If they are going to review the policy and allow Christians their place in the workforce then that is a big relief," she said. Ms Eweida said she had been "overwhelmed" by the level of support from members of the public. The airline said it had offered Ms Eweida an alternative, non-uniformed post, in which she would be able to wear her cross openly, but she had turned it down.

The airline said earlier this week that its policy recognised that it was not practical for some religious symbols, such as turbans and hijabs, to be worn underneath the uniform.

Personal items of jewellery, including crosses, could be worn, but underneath the uniform.

Ms Eweida, from Twickenham, in south-west London, said she had worn the small cross throughout her seven years at BA, and accused the company of religious discrimination. She said she did not want to hide the cross because "Jesus has to be glorified", adding: "I am not politically motivated or minded, I just follow the Biblical truth."

The airline had come under increasing pressure in recent days since Ms Eweida lost her appeal, with the Archbishop of York appealing to BA to reconsider its stand. The civil rights group Liberty said BA's policy appeared to be "fundamentally misconceived".

Brendan Gold, national officer of the Transport and General Workers Union, which supported Ms Eweida's case, said: "We trust this will bring closure to the issue and that she can return to work as soon as possible."

In yesterday's statement Mr Walsh said: "The recent debate about our uniform policy has unfairly accused British Airways of being anti-Christian. British Airways is proud of its uniform and proud of the diversity of its staff. One of the fundamental aims of our uniform policy is to be fair and non-discriminatory. Our current policy has served us well. Though our policy is consistent with that of many other airlines, it has become clear that the policy will need to change in the light of the public debate."

He said the airline's review of the policy would examine ways in which symbols of faith could be worn openly while remaining consistent with the "British Airways brand" and compliant with employment legislation. He said staff had suggested that the airline allow employees to wear religious symbols as small lapel badges. "This will be considered as part of the review." He said the criticism of BA had been "misplaced and unjustified".

Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he regarded it as "absolutely basic" that people of any faith should have the right to display the signs of their faith commitment in public.