High Heels = High Risk?

George Heron

George Heron

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Phone 01952 566918

18 May 2016

A temporary receptionist at PwC recently hit the news after she claimed she was sent home for not wearing high heels. Although a PwC spokesman has confirmed that they “do not have specific guidelines for male or female employees”, this appears to have a been an appearance guideline that was put in place by the third party supplier who employed the receptionist.

This episode has placed dress codes firmly in the limelight. Companies have a large measure of discretion when it comes to controlling their image and this includes the appearance of their staff. This is particularly true with regards to employees who have contact with customers. It is the case, however, that certain policies could potentially be deemed to be discriminatory.

Whilst it is possible for employers to specify different dress codes for men and women, there must be an equivalent level of smartness. Applying different standards to male and female employees would clearly be discriminatory and there is unlikely to be a legitimate defence to this.

Of course, while this instance is clearly an issue that is focussed on potential sex discrimination, other issues of discrimination can arise when considering dress codes. Employers could also find that their policies are adjudged to discriminate on the basis of race, religion or belief. Unless the policy is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, employers should exercise extreme caution when it comes to any of these areas.

At Alpha, we have a vast experience in providing bespoke, practical advice on HR and employment law issues. This includes the preparation of bespoke dress code policies that are legally compliant and meet the needs of our clients. We are proud of our commercial outlook and do not sit on the fence. If you would like to have Alpha on your side, please feel free to contact us.

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