Dress codes and sex discrimination...do you really want to know?

2018-05-23 Jennifer Renney posted:

It has long been established that dress codes requiring employees to wear make-up, high heels or have manicured nails is likely to be unlawful, and at Renney and Co we feel sure that most businesses will not find it necessary to receive guidance as to what is and what is not allowed in the workplace.

However for employers who are unsure, the Government Equalities Office issued guidance last week, entitled Dress codes and sex discrimination: what you need to know. The nine-page document states that dress codes can be a legitimate part of an employer's terms and conditions of service but employers are advised to avoid gender-specific rules. 'For example, any requirement to wear make-up, have manicured nails, wear hair in certain styles or to wear specific types of hosiery is likely to be unlawful, assuming there is no equivalent requirement for men, the guidance says.

Listing examples, the guidance says requiring female employees to wear high heels but not having footwear requirements for men is likely to constitute direct discrimination. It could also amount to indirect discrimination against disabled employees as heels can exacerbate mobility difficulties or increase the risk of falling for those who are visually impaired.

However, requiring receptionists or other customer-facing staff to dress smartly, to portray a positive public-facing image would be lawful because it is not a gender-specific requirement. Requiring all employees to wear smart shoes (rather than high heels) would also be lawful.

So ditch those heels ladies and get your Doc Martins out!

For advice on policies and procedures in the workplace you can contact us on 01225632240 or email us at info@renneyandco.com with any questions.

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