Discriminatory Dress Codes
Is it illegal to impose different dress code requirements on women than on men?
No. However, it is imperative that the dress code is applied as stringently on men as it is on women and any specific requirement based on gender must be necessary to achieve an equal purpose.
This point hit the headlines again today, 11th May 2016, when it was reported that a temporary worker was sent home without pay from reception duties at Price Waterhouse Cooper as she refused to wear high heels. When Nicola Thorp arrived at PWC to undertake reception duties, she was issued with a dress to wear. After changing into the dress, she was told that she must wear shoes with a minimum of a 2-inch heel. When Ms Thorp refused as she only had flat shoes with her, she was told that she would be allowed to work if she went out to buy a pair of heeled shoes; she refused to do so and was dismissed from her duties.
This has sparked a call for a petition to change the law to address such outdated, stereotypical expectations of dress. But the law is already in place to protect employees against such expectations through the Equality Act 2010, it simply must be applied correctly, and employers should be mindful of such pitfalls when implementing and enforcing a dress code policy.