Workers will be forced to remove their wedding rings while at work after a shock amendment to the Equality Bill late last night warned employees going through a divorce would feel discriminated against.
PLEASE NOTE: This article was published on April Fool's Day 2010.
Ministers from the three main political parties backed an amendment in the House of Commons to make employers ban wedding and engagement rings from the workplace, after the European Parliament ruled that divorcees should be afforded the same protection as religious groups.
It follows advice from the equality watchdog earlier this month that vegans and atheists should be protected under equality law.
A new equality code of practice states: "A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world."
Ministers in parliament last night claimed that those who have experienced, or were going through divorce, did so because it was indeed a belief about how a person lives their life, and that anything that supports marriage could be seen as anti-discriminatory to that belief.
One said: "People going through divorce do so because they believe marriage is no longer an option for them. It is their right to believe that they are not suited to the life of marriage after all, and seeing other people's wedding rings at work or elsewhere is a constant reminder to them that their belief is undermined."
He added: "Employers must have a duty to ensure that workers do not feel discriminated against at work. Asking colleagues to remove wedding rings is the most simple and cost-effective way of ensuring equality."
Under the proposals, workers will also be told not to discuss marriage proposals or arrangements at work for fear of upsetting divorcees.
The last-minute amendment immediately attracted controversy from the HR profession, who are already left baffled about what does and does not constitute as a protected belief under the new Bill.
One leading HR director said: "Banning wedding rings from the workplace has gone too far. Where will it stop? Politicians need to stop interfering in employment law."
The amendment will be discussed again next week by the House of Lords. Click here for more details.