robbryanassociates

Dressed for Work?

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2016 at 8:14 pm

When summer does arrive in the UK employers often begin to notice more relaxed dress standards. Now is the time to remind employees of your guidelines on what you regard as acceptable. Dress codes should help Manager’s avoid misunderstandings with employees about what attire is considered appropriate for the work place. Written guidelines will also assist Manager’s in enforcing dress codes in a consistent, non-discriminatory manner.

Employers establish dress codes for a variety of reasons, including to present a positive image to clients, to prohibit employees from coming to work with offensive, distracting, or inappropriate attire, and to avoid clothing that would present a health and safety risk. While business attire was the norm at companies for many years, employers have relaxed dress codes in an effort to improve morale and retention. Casual dress policies have become more common at work in response to employees’ demands for flexibility and a relaxed work environment.

We would advise having clear, fair and enforceable policies on dress in the workplace. You also need to ensure that your workplace actions and expectations are not discriminatory.

You have probably recently seen in the press reference to the London receptionist sent home for not wearing heels. You can understand how a number of professions have to wear particular pieces of uniform for health and safety reasons, but for what logical reasons should women be required to wear high heels?
As the law stands, employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to “reasonable” dress code demands, as long as they’ve been given enough time to buy the right shoes and clothes. They can set up different codes for men and women, as long as there’s an “equivalent level of smartness”.

Aside from the reasons above, employers should be aware that by dictating dress codes to women, they could find themselves at the wrong end of a discriminations claim if an employee was treated “less favorably” than a colleague of the opposite sex as a result. Simply, where the dress code could result in some disadvantage to the female employee which other male employees do not face, they may have a case on the grounds of sex discrimination

Employers are right to insist that their staff are presentable, neat and professional and appropriately dressed for work, but should not insist that females wear high heels to conduct their working day or shift.

There has also been in the press, details of a Belgian case regarding the treatment of religious observance and dress in the workplace.

In Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions NV the employee – a Muslim woman – was dismissed for insisting on wearing a hijab (or headscarf) when at work. The employer had a blanket rule forbidding any customer-facing employee from wearing visible religious symbols or dress in order to preserve a strict ‘neutrality’ in its dealings with customers. The Belgian Court referred the matter to the European Court of Justice asking whether a dismissal in such circumstances amounted to direct discrimination.

The case has yet to be decided however, it is unlikely that a UK Employment Tribunal could be persuaded that a policy of ‘neutrality’ is a sufficient reason to dismiss a Muslim woman who feels a religious obligation to wear the hijab at work.
Any dress code should be non-discriminatory and should apply to both men and women equally. If you need help to review your dress code please contact us and we can ensure that your workplace policies are not discriminatory and appropriate for your business.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: