Dress Codes Can An Employer Bring Their Employees To Heel

Date Added 13.05.16

At Tollers we like to be ‘A La Mode’ and bring you the latest employment law news and what’s more fashionable today than the subject of wearing high heels at work! Rebecca Wilson has been on BBC Radio Northampton to talk about this issue and the legalities of it.

So can an employer enforce a dress code?

Yes they can. Most employers will want a dress code for a variety of reasons. Generally, it’s uniform, or health and safety or the desire to project a certain corporate image. Employers do have discretion over the dress code, but they need to make sure that they are asking their male and female workers to wear a similar standard of dress and to have a genuine business reason behind it.

Can a dress code be discriminatory?

Yes it can. However, most men and women wear different articles of clothing, so how do you apply it fairly? Well as long as the code sets a “smartness standard” and applies it to men and women equally, it may not be discriminatory to require a man to wear a shirt and tie but not require a woman to wear the same. As long as the women is dressed to the equivalent level of smartness, the policy could be fair.

So what about this issue in the press requiring a female receptionist to wear high heels? If this can be justified, it could be a fair request.

“But high heels are uncomfortable!”, I hear some of you cry. Employers will have to take comfort into account so if you’re required to wear high heels for your job and high heels are uncomfortable or painful, you could challenge the policy. Alternatively, a failure to adhere to a fair dress code, could result in disciplinary action.

So what should employers make sure their policy does?

It should:

  • Apply equally to men and women;
  • Not restrict an individual’s freedom to govern their own appearance;
  • Not have an impact on health or comfort;
  • Be justifiable for genuine business reasons.

Of course, some employers will require employees to wear personal protective equipment for health and safety reasons, depending on the job they’re being asked to do.

What do you think?

Let’s start a conversation and Talk To Tollers! We’re HeRe For You.

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