It is increasingly important for employers to carefully consider their dress code policies to avoid being exposed to unlawful discrimination claims. To assist employers, the Government Equalities Office has recently released guidance on employer’s dress codes (the Guidance).
The Guidance confirms that a dress code can be a legitimate part of an employer’s terms and conditions of service. However, any less favourable treatment on the grounds of sex could be direct discrimination. While dress codes for men and women are not required to be identical, the standards imposed should be equivalent.
The Guidance advises against gender specific requirements, such as a requirement to wear high heels. Any requirement to wear make-up, skirts, have manicured nails or certain hairstyles is likely to be unlawful, assuming there is no equivalent requirement for men.
Employers should avoid having a dress code that prohibits religious symbols that do not interfere with an employee’s work and should avoid having a dress code that could lead to harassment by colleagues or customers, as this is likely to be unlawful.
It may be a reasonable adjustment to not require a disabled employee to comply with a dress code and a transgender employee should be allowed to follow a dress code in a way which they believe matches their gender identity.
Before setting or revising a dress code policy, an employer should consider the reason behind having a policy and consider the health and safety implications of any requirement. It is good practice to consult employees, staff organisations and trade unions to ensure that the code is acceptable to both the organisation and staff. Once agreed, it should be communicated to all employees.
Should you have any questions regarding dress code policies within your organisation, please contact Joseph Oates on tel: 01892 515022 or email@example.com
By Joseph Oates, Partner