Employers must ensure that any dress code imposes equivalent standards on both men and women in the workplace and it should avoid gender specific requirements. For example, if a Policy states that women are required to wear high heels whilst they are at work this is likely to be direct discrimination on the grounds of sex as the same requirement is not placed upon men. Instead, the Policy should state that both men and women are required to wear smart shoes whilst at work, thus applying the same standard to all employees.
It is important to note that different dress codes may in some circumstances be imposed upon men and women by the employer but when doing so the dress code for one sex cannot be far stricter than the other.
Employers should also be careful when imposing a Dress Code Policy that it does not prohibit wearing a religious symbol if to do so would not have an impact on the work that is being carried out. For example, in Chaplin v Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust it was held that the Trust did not discriminate against Mrs Chaplin by not allowing her to wear a crucifix necklace to work as they had a legitimate aim in imposing the uniform policy to protect the health and safety of the staff and patients.
We recommend that employers consider the recent guidance from the Government Equalities Office and review any policies they have relating to dress code in light of it. Should changes be required you may need to consult with any employees and trade unions.
If you require any assistance regarding this or any other employment law matter please contact Camille Renaudon in our employment department on 01270 215117 or firstname.lastname@example.org