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How ‘well-heeled’ is your dress code policy?

Regular readers of my blog will recall that in January this year I blogged about the fact that a Petition had been presented to Parliament in relation to dress codes in the workplace and whether these were discriminatory. The Petition was started by Nicola Thorp who turned up to start her new job at PWC and was sent home for refusing to wear high heels.

The Petition to Parliament was to make it illegal for employers to require women to wear high heels at work and the scope of the report was for a call on the Government to review the area of the law and to make it illegal for discriminatory dress codes to be imposed in terms of The Equality Act 2010. At the stage that the report was presented to Parliament, the key recommendation was that Employment Tribunals should be given the power to fine employers who attempt to enforce discriminatory dress codes.

Parliament has now issued its response to the report and employers can breathe a sigh of relief! Firstly, the government didn’t agree with the recommendation that Employment Tribunals should be given the power to fine employers who attempt to enforce discriminatory dress codes. Secondly, the Government did not think that it was necessary for it to introduce a new law in relation to dress codes. Instead, the Government took the view that “We are clear that a dress code that makes significantly more demands of female employees than of their male colleagues will be unlawful [direct sex discrimination]”.

The Government has however taken note that the issue of dress codes is a live issue. It has therefore decided to produce new guidance in conjunction with ACAS and the Health and Safety Executive which will clarify the law for both employers and employees.  This should be published by July 2017 and should cover what the response calls “the more controversial requirements, such as high heels, make-up, manicures, hair, hosiery, opacity of work wear, skirt length and low fronted or unbuttoned tops.”

Until the new guidance is in place, I would remind employers that if you have a dress code policy, it should take account of:

  1. relevant health and safety requirements;
  2. respect for cultural and religious traditions of all employees, i.e. both male and female;
  3. any adjustments that you need to make because of an employee’s disability;
  4. the equality of requirements. Are you imposing the same requirements on your male employees as well as your female employees? If not, why not? Is the employee client facing? Why do you want to impose the dress code?


If you have any questions about your dress code policy or the conditions which you impose on what your employees wear at work then please contact Julie Sullivan at



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