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New dress code guidance published by Government Equalities Office

Posted
May 31, 2018
Employment Law

We have seen a surprising amount of commentary on the vexed issue of dress codes over the last few years.  Much of this has been inspired by the case of Nicola Thorp, the aspiring actress who was sent home from a ‘temp’ job for refusing to wear high heels.  The more observant amongst you may have noticed that Ms Thorp now plays Nicola Rubenstein in ITV soap opera, Coronation Street.  So for her, with any luck, the problem of office dress codes are a thing of the past.  For the rest of us, they remain a ‘live’ issue.

If you are looking to review your own dress code, you could do worse than start with the newly published guidance issued by the Government Equalities Office.  The guidance document points out that whilst dress codes do not need to be the same for both men and women, they should nevertheless impose ‘equivalent’ standards.  They should avoid gender specific requirements (e.g. high heels, make-up, manicured nails).  Furthermore, in case it should need saying, dress codes should avoid imposing requirements that could prove ‘provocative’ or ‘revealing’.  Even if applied to all staff members (regardless of gender), such requirements could nevertheless invite unwanted attention that might give rise to sexual harassment claims.

The guidance also touches on the thorny issues thrown up by religious symbols and transgender staff.  You can find a full copy of the guidance by clicking on the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dress-codes-and-sex-discrimination-what-you-need-to-know

If you would like to discuss your company’s dress code in more detail, please get in touch.

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