Dressing for business success

21/11/2019

Claims that some employers in Japan are banning women from wearing glasses at work as they gave a “cold impression” made international headlines earlier this month.

It’s not clear whether the so-called "bans" were based on company policies, or rather reflected what was socially accepted practice in those workplaces. But it highlights the need for employers to have a clear dress policy, says Julia Fitzsimmons, a Partner in our employment team.

Dress codes can be a legitimate part of an employer’s terms and conditions of service, but employers should be wary that any less favourable treatment because of sex could be direct discrimination. While dress policies for men and women do not have to be identical, the standards imposed should be equivalent.

In 2018, the Government Equalities Offices published long-awaited guidance - Dress codes and sex discrimination: what you need to know – that details advice employers should follow. This includes: 

- Considering the reasoning behind having a policy, 

- Consulting with employees, staff organisations and trade unions to try to ensure the policy is acceptable to both the employer and its staff; and 

- Considering the health and safety implications of any requirement.  

The guidance also advised that gender specific prescriptive requirements, such as a requirement to wear high heels should be avoided. It states that any requirement to wear make-up, skirts, have manicured nails, certain hairstyles or specific types of hosiery is likely to be unlawful, assuming there is no equivalent requirement for men. 

For advice on dress policies in the workplace, contact Julia on the details below.


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