Government to clamp down on sexist dress codes
Commons committees have called for a review into equality legislation to clarify the law and bring in stronger penalties against employers who enforce sexist dress codes.
Discriminatory workplace dress codes for women have been in the news again this week following the issue of a House of Commons report on high heels and workplace dress code.
Two committees in the House of Commons were asked to investigate the issues after more than 150,000 people petitioned for it to be illegal for a company to require its female staff to wear high heels at work.
The petition followed the news that Nicola Trump, a receptionist had been sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels for her work. News of her experience triggered many others to come forward with their similar stories and highlighted the fact that the Equality Act 2010 is not effective in protecting women from sexist workplace dress codes. (The Guardian has printed an extract from such a dress code which you can read here)
The committees have reported that Ms Trump’s experience is by no means isolated and dress code requirements are not limited to high heels. They heard from women “who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly reapply make-up”.
While the law is clear that there must be no discrimination, the committees have concluded that “the existing law is not yet fully effective in protecting employees from discrimination at work”. They have called on the Government to review this area of the law and to ask Parliament to change it, if necessary, to make it more effective. They have also recommended that “the Government substantially increase the penalties available to employment tribunals to award against employers, including the financial penalties. At present, such penalties are not sufficient deterrent to breaking the law.”
Guidance for employers
In the meantime, the Equality Act is clear enough about discrimination: employers must ensure dress codes do not discriminate against their employees – male or female. You can read more guidance here:
- Our checklist on dress codes in the workplace.
- Tattoos in the workplace: "Why you may be missing out on talent if you stigmatise tattoos".
- Can an employer ban Islamic headscarves at work?
House of Commons report on High heels and workplace dress codeSubscribe to our newsletter
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