January 27th, 2017 / Insight posted in Blog

What is your Company dress code policy? Is it discriminatory?

Once again in the headlines today news reporters are asking this question. Debated on breakfast television this morning the presenters were not only asking the question about why women are being asked to wear heels and make up at work but also why men should be asked to wear ties.

The headline that sparked this widespread debate about Company dress codes happened last year in June when a London receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels. Her parliamentary petition on the issue gained more than 150,000 signatures.

Following the results of the petition there are now calls for the government to get involved. MP’s have said that the government must enforce the law to ban sexist dress rules at work that discriminate against women. But surely this should apply to men as well?

The MPs report recommends a publicity campaign be launched to ensure that employers know their legal obligations, but its key recommendation is that the existing law should be enforced more vigorously, with employment tribunals being given the power to apply bigger financial penalties.

What does your dress code policy say? Can it be applied to both men and women? If it can’t it is likely that it could be classed as discriminatory.

Some employers do have a dress code policy that is needed for health and safety reasons where safety shoes and high-vis vests must be worn, but these requirements are applicable to both male and female employees and do not discriminate between the two.

Of course in any professional environment a reasonable approach is needed as you want your employees to dress appropriately to the environment they work in and in some cases you may have a uniform. However, it is important that you don’t apply different standards to different sexes. Have a think about what you want your dress code to achieve.

Should men be required to wear a tie? From the other perspective there are so many more choices for women when it comes to dressing for work, but maybe we need to break tradition and be more flexible when it comes to dress codes, we are in the 21st century after all!

Diversity is something that all organisations are striving for and if we restrict ourselves with old fashioned rules about how our employees should look i.e. jewellery, shoes, facial hair, tattoos, etc., then this will not only restrict diversifying your organisation but also restrict the talent you attract and retain in working for you.