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Beyond aesthetic reasons, incorporating a work uniform or implementing a dress code policy for businesses have a number of valid points and advantages. It helps in establishing a powerful brand identity and an effective way to protect employees and customers, for example, in the case of hotels, restaurants and constructions.

However, employers should tread carefully in this matter to prevent getting entangled in legal claims or receiving a backlash from the public through social media, which can cause significant PR damage for the business.

The case of Nicola Thorp

The topic about dress codes and work uniforms for women has attracted a serious amount of media attention in 2017 because of Nicola Thorp, a female temp employee who was fired on the spot on her first day by corporate reception firm, Portico, after she arrived in flat shoes, instead of the mandatory two- to four-inch high-heeled shoes.

Ms Thorp said that she was told she could not carry out her shift unless she agrees to buy a pair of high heels for her to wear throughout, which she refused to do so. When she got home, she posted about the incident on social media and launched an online campaign petitioning the government to make it illegal for employers to force employees to wear high heels at work, which many have called sexual discrimination.

The petition has amassed over 150,000 signatures and has prompted a joint inquiry by the House of Commons Petition Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee was established and they published their recommendations on 25 January 2017.

Dress codes and sex discrimination

Here are some important takeaway points to consider when creating a uniform or dress code, especially for female employees.

  • Dress codes should abide by the Equality Act 2010, which protects employees from dress codes that encourage or make them vulnerable to unlawful behaviours and acts that are sexist, racist or homophobic in nature.
  • Avoid gender-specific dress requirement. This means that requiring women to wear makeup and high heels, have manicured nails, and put on hosiery in the workplace may be deemed unlawful because men do not have to do this.
  • Do not ask employees to wear suggestive or provocative clothing that would trigger sexual harassment among co-workers and customers.
  • Allow adjustments and special considerations for disabled employees and transgender people.

The current legal parameters do not mention specifics, leaving the decision to be based on facts presented to the court. There are now more and more employees speaking out against dress code policies in their workplace.

This is why it is of utmost importance to consult your workforce and recognised trade unions before rolling out memos on dress code policies. It is also beneficial to work with a professional who has proven expertise on this sensitive subject.

NC Workwear has over 30 years of experience providing high-quality and bespoke workwear for men and women in a wide array of business niches. For enquiries on chic and functional work wear for women, please complete our contact form in the site or call us on 0141 552 0567 (Glasglow) or 0131 516 7388 (Edinburg).