Here’s the answer, courtesy of the official reply being sent to people who write to ministers on this topic:
Unfortunately, some recent media coverage has misrepresented the position with regard to the ability of employees to wear crosses, or other religious symbols, while at work. The Government believes that people should be able to wear crosses openly at work. The law allows for this, and employers are generally very good at being reasonable in accommodating people’s religious beliefs.
There is no law stating what people can or cannot wear as this is considered a matter of personal choice. The Equality Act 2010 maintains this position. However, it is possible for employers to apply certain rules, for example about not wearing jewellery, which may have an impact on people of certain religions. If any policy has that effect, then the employer must have a proportionate and legitimate reason for adopting it, for instance for health and safety reasons or in order to comply with a legitimate uniform policy.
The current law applies in the same way to people of all religions and beliefs. It makes clear that any actions that would directly discriminate against those of a particular religion, such as Christianity, are unlawful. In addition, where a policy indirectly discriminates against those of a particular religion and this policy cannot be justified, that is also unlawful.
The Government believes that the Equality Act 2010 strikes the right balance between employees’ rights to manifest their religion or beliefs at work and the business needs and requirements of the particular employer.
With specific reference to the applications currently before the European Court of Human Rights, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as part of its liaison role with the Court, submitted the written observations of the Government on the admissibility and merits of those applications to the Court in October 2011. These observations represent the Government’s legal position.
The applicants claim that domestic law has breached their human rights, a claim which the Government denies. The Court will consider the applications in due course and the Government will consider its findings carefully when they are made.
The Government greatly values the vital role that Christian organisations have in our society and the part they play in national life, inspiring a great number of people to get involved in public service and providing help to those in need. The Government is committed to ensuring fair treatment and equal opportunities for all, including people of all religions.