High Heels and Work Petition: The Legal Position

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25 January, 2017

Recently women have spoken out about their employers putting pressure on them to wear high heels, more make up or revealing outfits to "fulfil" their roles at work. The Equality Act 2010 ("the EA 2010") prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation in employment, however currently employers are not generally required by law to have an equal opportunities policy or dress code policy.

A High Heels at Work petition was triggered by a Nicola Thorp who was sent home from work without pay for refusing to wear them. The government concluded that this imposed requirement was unlawful yet remained widespread. These perceived sexist instructions have been issued to female employees only and consequently two Commons' committees have called for a review of the current equality legislation.

It has been argued that certain dress codes, such as requiring women to wear high heels for extended periods of time, are subject to health and safety breaches and damaging women's health and wellbeing. There is a fine line between encouraging everyone to maintain an appropriate standard of dress and personal appearance at work and placing unwanted pressure and strict rules on women to look a certain way.

Any dress code should not be stricter or cause any disadvantage to one gender over another. The EA 2010 states that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of their sex.

Employers should aim to apply a fair and equal approach to all employees to allow a corporate and smart image whilst ensuring that they do not discriminate against anyone due to a protected characteristic.

Parliament have highlighted that The Committees report requires urgent attention and the petition which will make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work will be debated in Parliament on Monday 6th March 2017.

For more information contact Georgina Read in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 03332071154. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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