The government has recently published new guidelines on how employers can ensure that their dress codes are not discriminatory.
The guidance was issued following an inquiry into employer dress codes which was launched in 2016 after Nicola Thorp, a receptionist working on a temporary basis for PwC, was sent home for refusing to wear heels.
Whilst the guidance confirms that it can be legitimate to a have a dress code policy, it warns that any less favourable treatment because of sex could amount to discrimination. Employers are therefore advised to ensure that they can explain their reasoning behind having such a policy. Further recommendations include meeting with employees to discuss and seek their input on the policy and considering the health and safety implications of the requirements.
It goes on to say that dress codes for men and women do not have to be identical however the standards imposed should be equivalent. Because of this, requirements for women to wear high heels, make-up or skirts are likely to be unlawful, assuming there is no equivalent requirement for men.
In addition to sex discrimination, the guidance also considers other areas where discrimination may arise. It recommends that in the case of religious employees, a dress code policy should not prohibit the wearing of religious symbols where it will not interfere with work and in the case of disabled employees, it may be a reasonable adjustment to not require a disabled employee to comply with a dress code where it may cause them difficulty.
If you require further advice in relation to your dress code policy, or in relation to any other issue, then please do not hesitate to contact Howarth’s team today on 01274 864999, and ask to speak to Charlotte, our head of Employment Law.