I’m sure as teenagers we’ve all heard it before “you’re not going out in that?!” Maybe you’ve said it to your kids? Was it a sex pistols t-shirt, a mini skirt, David Bowie lightning bolt face paint or skinny jeans? What did you do, go out anyway and risk it or go and get changed?

What if you don’t like what your employees are wearing? Can you have any control over the appearance of your workforce? Well, yes, but you have to be careful. Your policies and procedures can include a Dress Code but you must ensure it is not discriminatory.

Nicola Thorpe was an agency worker and arrived at PwC in London to work on their reception, she was wearing smart clothes and flat black shoes. She was informed that the Dress Code required that she wear high heels of at least 2-4 inches in height. She was offered the choice of going home or going into town to purchase some high heels. Ms Thorpe went home and petitioned the government to debate the issue of discriminatory Dress Codes. And they did! They decided the requirement was discriminatory on grounds of sex.

A recent case in the European Court of Justice, Achbita v G4S, looked at whether G4S’s Dress Code prohibiting their employees from wearing any visible symbols of religious, political or philosophical belief was discriminatory. Their employee worked in a client facing role and chose to wear an Islamic headscarf to work. She was asked not to wear it at work, refused to remove it and was dismissed. The court concluded that as the Dress Code applied to all religious, political and philosophical beliefs and did not target or disadvantage any specific group it was not discriminatory, as long as it was consistently and genuinely applied.

So what should you do? Send them home, discipline them or just allow it? Give Howarths a call and one of our specialist and legally qualified team will be happy to discuss.

Telephone 01274 864999 and speak to Sarah or e mail sarah@howarths-uk.com

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