There is no law in the UK that makes it legal for a company to insist on staff being clean shaven. However, all employees will have an employment contract that sets out the conditions of the employment. It is this document that the employee should refer to on all matters regarding their work, including those related to appearance.
According to the UK Government’s website, an employee's contract should include employment conditions, rights, responsibilities and duties, known as the ‘terms’ of the contract. Employees and employers must stick to these terms throughout the course of the contract. If being clean shaven is part of this contract, then an employer has every right to insist that staff are clean shaven when at work.
Restrictions on facial hair may be justified by health and safety issues. An employee may need to be clean shaven if a job involves food preparation or medical supplies for example. This should be stipulated in a contract and mentioned at interview. Some employers will provide beard nets in these circumstances. If having a beard is important to a member of staff, it is best to clarify this at the interview stage.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission states that a ‘no beard’ policy would have a disproportionate impact on those workers whose religious beliefs require them not to shave. In these cases, the employer would have to justify the policy as otherwise this would be discriminatory.
If an employee feels unfairly treated for religious or cultural reasons it is best to first try to address the situation at an informal level, through speaking to a line manager or superviser. If this does not resolve the issue, the company’s human resources department should be able to help, or the employee can contact a staff association or trade union for further advice.