What can you tell an employee to wear in the workplace?
New rules on employee dress code may give employers more clarity on what they can and can’t tell workers to wear.
The guidelines, published here, follow a review by the Government Equalities Office, Acas, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive.
It comes after a petition, led by receptionist Nicola Thorp, quickly amassed more than 150,000 signatures calling to ban high heels in the workplace.
Ms Thorp reported that she was sent home from a new job at PwC for wearing flat shoes after the agency she was employed by required women to wear high heels “between two and four inches high”.
Experts argue that the current laws surrounding employee dress code are open to discriminatory practices, often requiring women to dress a certain way.
Currently, dress code laws only enforce discrimination against protected characteristics – these being age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
Employers may, however, enforce a dress code with respect to health and safety or to project a certain image.
Advice on the Acas website states: “A dress code can often be used by employers to ensure workers are safe and dressed appropriately. It should, however, relate to the job and be reasonable in nature, for example workers may be required to tie their hair back or cover it for hygiene reasons if working in a kitchen.
“Employers may have a policy that sets out a reasonable standard of dress and appearance for their organisation. Any dress code should be non-discriminatory and should apply to both men and women equally. Standards can be different, for example a policy may state ‘business dress’ for women but may state for men ‘must wear a tie’.”
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