Schools and workplaces are committing to celebrating natural black hairstyles - the UK's first black hair code explained

Friday, 11th December 2020, 12:05 pm
Updated Friday, 11th December 2020, 12:05 pm

Workplaces and schools in the UK are being asked to sign up to the country’s first black hair code.

The Halo Code aims to end discrimination against children and adults who have afro-textured hair.

Schools and workplaces are being asked to commit to celebrate natural black hairstyles, instead of penalising and judging people for them. 

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Here’s everything you need to know about the new Halo Code.

What is the Halo Code?

The Halo Code was started by the Halo Collective, and pledges to members of the black community that they will have the "freedom and security to wear all afro-hairstyles without restriction or judgement".

If the code is signed by employers and schools, it means they will be taking steps to ensure staff and students with afro-textured hair are protected.

An adoption of the code by institutions also signals to black people that their hair will not be a barrier in their school or work life.

Currently, the ways afro-textured hair is styled is against the rules in some schools in the UK.

Who are the Halo Collective?

The Halo Collective was founded by 30 young black activists from The Advocacy Academy - a social justice youth movement aiming to create a fairer and more inclusive society. 

The collective said that often black people have to choose "between their education or career on the one hand, and their cultural identity and hair health on the other."

Edwina Omokaro, co-Founder of the Halo Collective, told The Guardian: “Despite hair being a protected racial characteristic under the law, there is a widely held belief that black hairstyles are inappropriate, unattractive, and unprofessional.

“No one should have to change their natural or protective hairstyle in order to thrive. Together, we will ensure that all black people can learn, work, and live free from hair discrimination.”

Is race-based hair discrimination a crime?

Race-based hair discrimination has been illegal in the UK since 2010, when the Equalities Act became law.

However, it is still a really big problem in this country.

Research from World Afro Day and De Montfort University, highlighted by the Halo Collective, found that more than half of black students have experienced discrimination about their hair at school. 

And furthermore, 46 percent of parents say their child’s school uniform rules penalise afro-textured hair. 

The problem persists as children grow up, with one in five black women feeling societal pressure to straighten their hair or present it in a Euro-centric style for work.

In February, Ruby Williams received £8,500 in a settlement after her family took legal action against her school in east London.

She had been repeatedly sent home from school because she had afro-hair, which she was told was against uniform policy.

What companies have adopted the Halo code?

The Halo Code has already been adopted by one of the UK's biggest companies, Unilever, which manufacturers Dove products and Magnum. 

Bosses have signed the code and pledged to protect workers with afros and dreadlocks against bias.

Richard Sharp, HR vice-president of Unilever UK & Ireland, said he believed the code was imperative in the fight for equality.

He told BBC Newsbeat: "We know it's really important for people to be able to be themselves in the workplace.

"We believe the individuality of hair should be celebrated, which is why we are supporting and communicating the Halo Code to our people, and believe it is a vital step in the fight to ensure racial justice and racial equity for the next generation."