Dress Code Policy and Discrimination

12 January 2017

Imposing a dress code policy is perfectly legal when it factors in an employees rights, but in some cases employers make demands that actually discriminate against employees. The below case study is an example of an employer manipulating dress code policy to discriminate against an employee on the basis of gender.

The case

Ms Sandilands started employment with Cecchini’s on a zero hours contract in September 2015. Initially, she was told the dress code included black trousers or a skirt and a black shirt. However, a month later she was told to wear a skirt and make up to look more ‘feminine’ as the ‘punters would like it’. Ms Sandilands questioned this with her employer. The following day she was told she wouldn’t be offered any more shifts.

The outcome

A Tribunal found Ms Sandilands had been discriminated against on the grounds of her sex as the comments would not have been made to a male employee. The Tribunal also found that the employer’s conduct also amounted to harassment and had exposed Ms Sandilands to a degrading and humiliating working environment. Based on that Ms Sandilands was awarded £2,500 for injury to feelings and £1,060 in lost wages. The employer has said he will appeal this decision.

Laura Burnett, Employment Law Team Manager, says:

Laura Burnett

“It is unacceptable to make comments of this nature in the workplace of today. Employers should have a dress code policy in place so staff are aware of what is acceptable attire for work. If there is no policy, then employers should at least make it clear what is the appropriate dress code and should apply this consistently across the workforce. It is important that the dress code doesn’t disadvantage employees of a particular sex or religion.”

Some cases of dress code discrimination are less clear cut and it can be difficult for employers to decide what should be included in a dress code policy. We have created a guide to help you understand what legally can and can’t be included to help you create a dress code that is suitable for your business.

Citation Dress Code Infographic

If you are concerned about suitable dress codes for your employees, please contact us.

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