Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele had their appeals to the Strasbourg court rejected in January as part of the same ruling as that in which Nadia Eweida, a British Airways check-in attendant, won her fight against being banned from wearing a cross at work.

The three sought to resolve the matter in the court's grand chamber, its final arbiter. However, judges at the court have rejected the request, in effect ending the legal battle.

The success for Eweida, who was awarded €2,000 (£1,600) in compensation after a seven-year struggle with the airline – a decision welcomed by David Cameron among others – partly overshadowed the contrasting judgment in the cases of Chaplin, McFarlane and Ladele.

Chaplin, 57, a geriatrics nurse from Exeter, was moved to an administrative job after she refused to take off a crucifix around her neck. Her case was rejected in January on the grounds that such an instruction was necessary for hygiene and the safety of patients and staff.