Government reforms (3): Discrimination and dress codes

dress code

What do we already know?

We updated you in our March 2017 Newsletter Government reforms (2): Discrimination and dress codes that the Government had indicated that it would take strong action to tackle sex discrimination at work, including discriminatory dress codes. This was particularly given a joint report by the House of Commons Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee in January 2017 named High heels and workplace dress codes.

In our May 2017 Newsletter Government reforms: Discrimination and dress codes we updated you that the Government said in its response to the above report that it would be providing new comprehensive guidance on dress codes.

What’s new?

The Government Equalities Offices has published its new guidance, Dress codes and discrimination: what you need to know.

The guidance does not contain any measures to toughen up sanctions on organisations with discriminatory rules.  Rather, it reminds employers that dress policies for men and women do not have to be identical, but standards imposed should be equivalent. It also warns that requiring any gender-specific items, such as high heels, make up or have manicured nails, is likely to be unlawful and there must be similar or equivalent rules for both men and women. For example, requiring all employees to wear smart shoes, but not high heels, would be lawful.

The guidance also reminds employers that they can make reasonable adjustments to dress codes for disabled workers, and that “transgender employees should be allowed to follow the organisation’s dress code in a way which they feel matches their gender identity”.

We are also awaiting guidance from ACAS on this issue and will let you know when it’s published…