Sexist dress codes?

25 January 2017

Since an agency receptionist was sent home from work for not wearing high heels, the issue of female dress codes has been in the news on and off.

Today a group of MPs called for additional measures to prevent companies applying sexist dress codes such as those requiring women to wear revealing clothes, make up and/or high heels.

Two House of Commons’ committees – for Petitions and for Women and Equalities – produced a report which concluded that the Equality Act 2010 should already protect women from discriminatory appearance requirements but in reality this was not happening. They advocate launching a publicity campaign to advise employers of their legal obligations and employees of their rights. The committees also concluded that Employment Tribunals should be given the power to impose greater penalties on employers who enforce dress codes found to be sexist. For example, having to pay compensation to all affected employees – not just the claimant/s. The committee also noted that the current legislation should be reviewed to ensure adequacy.

Nicola Thorp – the receptionist who brought this to light in May 2016 – commented that the debate was similar to the historic argument about whether women could wear trousers to work. She believes a requirement for women to wear high heels – in her case 2 to 4 inch heels which she would have been walking on for up to 9 hours – is similarly outdated and sexist.

If you would like to read the BBC article on this topic then click here.

If this is a live issue in your company then contact us if you would like to discuss it further.