A temporary receptionist has claimed that she was sent home from work because she was not wearing high heels. Can they do this?
Upon arrival at her first day at the office, she was informed that flat shoes were not part of the dress code for women. She has since set up a petition calling for it to be made illegal for companies to insist that female employees wear heels.
Whilst the debate has raged as to whether the same amounts to sex discrimination or sexism, a dress code that is introduced for the purposes of requiring conventional appearances for male and female employees, and applied even-handedly, does not amount to sex discrimination. There is nothing preventing an employer from enforcing a common element of smartness and conventionality. There is a distinction between discrimination against both sexes evenly, and discrimination against one or other of the sexes. It is the latter which was prohibited under the Equality Act 2010.
It is important that employers have a dress code policy and when formulating such, an employer should keep potential issues of discrimination in mind. Regard should be had to possible religious sensitivities. As seen above it is permissible to have different rules for women and men, though the rules should not be more stringent for one group than another.
For advice on discrimination at work, contact Alex Pearce, in our Employment Law Department for specific advice on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01708 229444.
This article was written by Alex Pearce our Employment Law Specialist at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at April 2016.