Dress codes at work

Following recent controversy with a receptionist who was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels, the Government has stopped short of legislating in this arena. Women can be required to wear high heels or other specific items of clothing in the workplace provided that men are subject to equivalent rules, according to guidelines from Parliamentary committees.

That means businesses can continue to make it a requirement for female employees wear heels, for example, providing it is considered a job requirement and men are made to dress to an “equivalent level of smartness”.
The new guidance follows a petition signed by more than 152,000 people to ban compulsory high heels at work. However, the Government believes existing legislation is “adequate” and already prevents companies from gender-based discrimination but it has said it will develop new guidelines in conjunction with the Government Equalities Office, Acas, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive.

• Employers should have clear but not too detailed dress codes setting out their expectations
• Employers should consult with staff if they feel the need to update or amend dress code policies so that they “feel involved in the development of the company policy
• Dress codes should be kept under review over time to make sure they remain relevant and appropriate.
• Organisations need to strike a balance between allowing workers to choose what they wear at work whilst protecting the wellbeing and dignity of others.
• Employers should review dress code provisions with discrimination in mind.

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