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Blog  »  May 2016  »  Dress Code - To heel or not to heel - Blog
May 16

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Dress Code - To heel or not to heel

A recent case  has brought the issue of dress code into the headlines. A temporary secretary started on her first day as a receptionist in the large Accountancy Firm Price Waterhouse Cooper, only to be told she had to go and buy herself a pair or heeled shoes as the flat shoes she wore were not deemed to be appropriate as they were not part of the dress code that the recruitment agency stipulated. She refused, stating that male employees did not have to wear heels so why should she. She was sent home without pay.

So this brings us to the question, how important is a dress code in the workplace?

The employer is fully within his rights to include a policy in the company handbook stating that employees must wear a particular dress code, i.e. smart, business-like attire or a uniform if there is one. If the employees are dealing with customers on a face to face level or representing the company in any way then it is especially important that the employees are seen to be dressed appropriately in neat and smart attire.

But can an employer make requests from one group of employees and not from another? Can an employer request that female staff wear heels over flat shoes? In this day and age and with all the advancements made for equality across all I would have to say no. But obviously there are some archaic ideologies still in practice out there.

Commenting on the situation, Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK, said: "Forty-one years on since the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act, it's baffling that there are still some companies that are practicing this sort of outdated sexism."

"In our view, unless equally stringent requirements are applied to male workers, it is likely that a requirement to wear two inch heels would constitute unlawful discrimination, and we will look into whether action needs to be taken."

The employee in question has now set up a petition asking for it to be made illegal for companies to require women to wear the footwear for their jobs.

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