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Dress codes

Dress codes

A publicity campaign is underway to help employers and their employees understand their rights when it comes to dress code in the work place.

The issue has been thrust back into the spotlight after a receptionist was sent home for refusing to wear high heels.

Mark Ridley, employment law expert at Band Hatton Button, provides some guidance to help businesses make sense of the on-going debate.

He said: "The law as it stands is that having different requirements for men and women in a dress code will usually not amount to sex discrimination.

"If a dress code applies a conventional standard of appearance, and, when taken as a whole, rather than item by item, neither men nor women are treated less favourably.

"In one case a requirement that men did not have hair below shirt collar length, which did not apply to women, was lawful, in the context of the dress code as a whole. In contrast, a woman employed as a waitress, dismissed for refusing to wear a low-cut top was held to have been unlawfully discriminated against."

Employers need to ensure that their dress code is applied even-handedly between men and women, and employers should be ready to consider exceptions where it is requested by employees who feel disadvantaged because of a protected characteristic such as sex, disability or religious belief.

"In light of this, employers may wish to consider reviewing their dress codes."

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