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Dress Codes – June 2018

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Dress Codes and Sex Discrimination

It is important for practice owners to know what is lawful and what is not when it comes to setting workplace dress codes, as any unlawful requirements could lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation.  The Government Equalities Office published new guidance in May this year on what information employers need to know about dress codes in the workplace – read more here.

The guidance addressed how the law may apply in cases of sex discrimination, and although it referenced certain workplaces the list was not exhaustive.

It is perfectly legitimate for employers to have a dress code in place and the policies for men and women do not need to be identical, but the standards they impose should be equal and they should not discriminate against a particular sex. Any less favourable treatment because of sex could amount to direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. An example of a dress code that could amount direct discrimination is where a policy which allows for men to wear trousers but doesn’t allow for women to wear them.

The government guidance recommends that it is good practice to consult employees and trade unions when proposing to implement a dress code to ensure that the code is acceptable to all staff. They also suggested gender specific requirements should be avoided, such as those that require women to wear make-up, high heels or skirts, where there is no equivalent requirement for men.

The guidance also provides that employers should be flexible with their dress codes so that they do not make any requirements that prohibit religious symbols as long as they do not interfere with the employee’s work, and they do not pose a health and safety issue.

At FTA Law we can offer advice on all aspects of an employer’s duties towards their employees, so please contact us on 0330 088 2275 for further information.

The team at FTA Law provides advice to clients across the commercial and healthcare sectors with many of our instructions coming from referrals from long standing clients and industry contacts.

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