The CCMA is conducting an arbitration hearing to ascertain if a hospital acted unfairly towards a Muslim medical practitioner over her religious beliefs of keeping her arms covered, reports IoL.

In February, the matter between Farzana Ismail and Life Entabeni Hospital was referred to the CCMA after talks between the two parties failed to reach an amicable agreement.

According to minutes of the pre-arbitration meeting, the hospital management was aware of and approved Ismail's dress code which covered her arms up to her wrists.

In March 2018, a new policy was introduced which meant all people entering the clinic area would have to be bare below the elbows in order to avoid the risk of spreading infection.

The hospital management rejected Ismail's proposals that she either wears an isolation gown or medical sleeves which could be changed between seeing patients.

Management also chose to review Ismail's role as a clinical practice pharmacist and ordered her to work remotely as she did not need to attend ward rounds.

The matter was then referred to the CCMA in February. However, in June 2021 an update was made to the 'bare below elbow policy' that made concession for other religious practices, but not the Muslim religion.

The arbitration is to ascertain if Ismail had been subjected to unfair discrimination in respect of her religion, whether the policy is reasonable, whether Ismail is entitled to compensation as a result of the discrimination, as well as whether management acted contrary to the provisions of the Employment Equity Act and whether their actions were justifiable.

Professor Shaheen Mehtar is expected to be called as an expert witness to testify on Ismail’s behalf.

Full IoL report