Does Your Company Dress Code Break The Law?

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Alex Pearce, employment law specialist explains how your business could be breaking the law in light of recent sexism claims.

Sexism in the workplace has been rife in recent news, with MPs demanding that the government look to enforce the law to ban sexist dress rules at work that are discriminatory against women.

The article, published by BBC News touched briefly upon the Equality Act 2010 and the legal standing that women have regarding discriminatory dress rules at work. We look more closely at this legislation to understand what is currently protected under its rule.

The Equality Act 2010 is concerned with discrimination and harassment in respect of the following protected characteristics:

  • Age;
  • Disability;
  • Gender Reassignment;
  • Marriage and civil partnerships;
  • Pregnancy
  • Maternity/paternity;
  • Race, religion or belief;
  • Sex;
  • Sexual orientation.

Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for an employer to:

  • Discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of sex;
  • Discriminate indirectly by applying a provision, criteria or practice that disadvantages job applicants or employees of one sex without objective justification;
  • Subject a job applicant or employee to harassment relating to sex, sexual harassment or less favourably treatment because they reject or submit to harassment;
  • Victimise a job applicant or employee because they have made or intend to make a sex discrimination complaint under the Equality Act 2010 or because they have taken action or intend to take action in connection with the Act.

Discrimination in employment is generally prohibited, however, there are certain circumstances where an employer may have a defence in respect of an act of discrimination.  For example, there may be an occupational requirement; however, being sexy at work is not a job requirement. 

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