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Equalities Office publishes guidance on dress codes and sex discrimination

Makbool Javaid
sex discrimination

The Equalities Office has published guidance on dress codes and sex discrimination setting out how the law might apply where an employer requires female staff to wear, for instance, high heels, make-up, or revealing clothing. It states that dress policies for men and women do not have to be identical, but standards imposed should be equivalent. It also states that is advisable to avoid gender specific prescriptive requirements. For example, any requirement to wear make-up, have manicured nails, wear hair in certain styles or to wear specific types of hosiery or skirts is likely to be unlawful, assuming there is no equivalent requirement for men. A dress code that requires all employees to ‘dress smartly’ would be lawful, provided the definition of ‘smart’ is reasonable. For example, a two-piece suit in a similar colour for both men and women, with low-heeled shoes for both sexes.

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