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Dress for success in the workplace

19/04/2017

*New development* Call for no 'high heel rule' stumbles....

Parliament has concluded there will be no be legal change preventing companies from telling women to wear high heels at work  - but instead further guidelines on what employers can and can't insist their staff wear are on their way. 

The issue was debated in Parliament in March after Nicola Thorp, who was sent home for wearing flat shoes, set up a petition with more 152,000 signatures. The Equalities Office said existing legislation was "adequate" but it would issue guidelines to firms this summer.

Miss Thorp said the decision to stop short of a law change was a "cop-out". She began her petition after being told to leave a temp job for refusing to wear a "2-4in heel". A subsequent parliamentary investigation into heels and company dress codes found "widespread discrimination" in workplaces. 

Here is the previous article from where the controversy all started.

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The public furore sparked by one woman’s experience of being sent home from work for not wearing high heels has led to MPs calling on the Government to better enforce laws that ban sexist dress codes and discriminate against women.

So what are the rules surrounding work wear? HR Specialist Julia Fitzsimmons from Progressive HR, a new service developed by FBC Manby Bowdler to provide expert advice on staffing issues, employment law and HR all in one place, has this advice for employers:

Employers should have taken note when more than 150,000 people signed Nicola Thorp’s petition calling for a law against making women wear high heels after she was sent home from her receptionist job for refusing to comply.

The petition led to an inquiry by the parliamentary committees for Petitions and for Women and Equalities, which has just published its report High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes.

It says there should be a review of the existing law to protect women against being forced to wear high heels, makeup or revealing outfits. The MPs’ report included evidence that women were being asked to wear shorter skirts, dye their hair and constantly re-apply make up.

It said the Equality Act 2010 should ban discriminatory dress rules at work, but in practice the law isn’t being applied properly to protect workers of either gender.

If employers are sure that the requirements they are seeking to enforce don’t discriminate against a protected group then, to some extent, they are free to enforce the rules as they see fit.

However, in 2017 society’s idea of what is acceptable is more liberal, and employers need to be careful they are not enforcing rules based on ‘out-dated’ views of what is acceptable.

Employers could miss out on excellent candidates because they don’t conform to a certain ideal. So, when implementing a dress code, employers should consider the reasons for the dress code, and the demographic of not only their customers but also the type of employee they are seeking to attract.

Dress codes should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are moving with the times.

For further advice, please contact Julia Fitzsimmons on 01743 266268 or j.fitzsimmons@fbcmb.co.uk. Alternatively, find out more about our Employment & HR Services

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