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New guidance on dress codes this summer

You will no doubt remember the story from last year of the receptionist who was sent home for refusing to wear high heels as apart of her dress code. Now, the government is set to bring in guidance for employers.


Last year, receptionist Nicola Thorp set up a petition after she was sent home from work for not wearing a two to four inch heel. Over 150,000 signed the petition, triggering a parliamentary debate.

In January, the Women and Equalities Commission and the Petitions Commission raised concerns about whether the law was protecting employees from discriminatory dress codes at work. They made a number of recommendations – one of which was that the government review the law and amend it, if necessary, to make it more effective.

Government response

The government, in its formal response, emphasised that all employers should re-examine their dress codes to ensure they are “relevant and lawful”.

They concluded that the law dealing with gender-based discrimination is “adequate”. However, they did concede that some employers are not aware of the law or deliberately choose to break it; therefore they would be producing guidance to raise awareness of employers’ obligations and employees’ rights. This is due to be released in the summer.

The Committees had also suggested that the government needed to increase fines for employers that were found to have violated the law, but the government rejected this idea saying that the current system was “proportionate and fit for purpose”.

How can we help?

Dress code has been in the news regularly over the last year. Not only has Nicola Thorp’s story gone viral, but recently the EU’s top court issued a ruling on employees’ wearing headscarves in the workplace.

If you have any concerns about dress code, seek legal advice. Employment Law Advisers at Ellis Whittam are just one call away – they can review and update your dress code to ensure it is legally compliant and suits your business needs.

Source: Ellis Whittam