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.
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.
The cake included the caption "Support Gay Marriage" and the judge in Northern Ireland decided that it amounted to direct discrimination on grounds of the customer's sexual orientation.
The original case had the support of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission and was brought against the bakery and its two directors, who were Christians, in May. They had refused to honour a cake order on the grounds of their religious beliefs.
The judge accepted that the bakery has "genuine and deeply held" religious views, but said the business was not above the law. The firm was found to have discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as his political beliefs.
The bakery’s appeal will be heard in the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in relation to goods, services and facilities and applies to the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation (the prohibition on age discrimination does not apply to persons under the age of 18).
The Act prohibits a service provider from discriminating against a person with a protected characteristic in the following ways:
Proceedings for discrimination must be brought in the County Court within six months of the date of the act to which the claim relates. The County Court has a discretion to accept proceedings brought outside of the six-month period if in all the circumstances of the case it is "just and equitable" to do so.
Businesses should implement effective policies to ensure equality of, access to and enjoyment of their services. All staff should be trained, practices reviewed and any acts of discrimination by employees should be acted upon by way of a disciplinary.
This article was written by Alex Pearce, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at July 2015.