Many employers have dress codes incorporated in their contracts of employment and/or company handbook. It is very important for an employer to review these dress codes in light of ever-changing society norms.
It was formally a requirement in many offices for men to wear a jacket and a tie. That may no longer be appropriate except, perhaps, in some customer-facing roles.
Significant reputational damage can be caused to employers if they insist on what may be regarded as inappropriate dress codes and this can result in claims for damages in the Employment Tribunal.
One of the top four accountants recently suffered significant adverse publicity when an agency to whom they had outsourced their reception duty had imposed a dress code on their placements, who were predominantly women. The women were advised that they should wear high heels and use an agency uniform. It was not the uniform that the candidate took exception to, but the requirement to wear high heels.
There was considerable furore in the national press. The firm of accountants withdrew their dress code and the agency’s contract was terminated.
What lesson does this teach us?
It teaches us that employers are under an obligation to constantly review their dress codes, and to consider whether some of the requirements are, in fact, necessary in the modern workplace.
An Employment Tribunal found recently that a café manager who was required to wear a low-cut blouse as part of her café uniform was discriminated against and she was successful in a claim against her employer for harassment and she won significant damages.
If you have any work place issues you would like to discuss with our specialist employment team please contact us.
Author: Gareth Price e: