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Employers Can Force Women to Wear High Heels

Employers Can Force Women to Wear High Heels

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Calls to introduce a new law banning companies from telling women to wear high heels at work have been rejected by the government.

The government’s decision means that employers can continue to insist that female employees wear heels, as long as it is considered a job requirement and men are made to dress to an “equivalent level of smartness.”

The issue was debated in Parliament in March after Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from a temp job for wearing flat shoes and refusing to wear a ‘2-4in heel,’ set up a petition which attracted more than 152,000 signatures.

Ms Thorp, from east London, said it was a “shame” the law would not be changed.

“It shouldn’t be down to people like myself . . . The government should take responsibility and put it in legislation. I do think it is a little bit of a cop-out,” she said.

Equality Act 2010, also saying “We are clear that the law to deal with this sort of discrimination is adequate.”The government rejected calls from MPs on the women and equalities select committee to increase fines for employers who are found by a tribunal to have sexist dress codes, arguing that the current penalties of up to £30,000 for the most serious discrimination is “proportionate and fit for purpose.” The government also turned down a call to allow tribunals to issue injunctions banning sexist dress codes.

However, the government conceded that increased awareness of the law was desirable: “The law is designed to protect the rights of women in the workplace but we accept that awareness of the law among employers and employees is patchy and that there are bad employers who knowingly flout the law,” it said.

The Government Equalities Office is now calling on all employers to review their dress codes and “consider whether they remain relevant and lawful.”

A government spokesperson said:

“No employer should discriminate against workers on grounds of gender – it is unacceptable and is against the law. Dress codes must include equivalent requirements for both men and women.”


New workplace dress code guidance expected this summer

Working in partnership with Acas, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive, the Government Equalities Office will publish workplace dress code guidance to improve employers’ and workers’ awareness of their rights.

In developing the guidance, the Government said it would consider controversial dress code requirements including high heels and footwear, make-up, manicures and hairstyle. It will also consider hosiery, see-through clothing, skirt length and low-fronted or unbuttoned tops.

Maria Miller, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said the Government had not gone far enough, adding that current equality legislation is “not sufficient to achieve equality in practice.”

“This petition, and the committees’ inquiry, have reinforced the need for effective enforcement of legislation and for employers and employees to be aware of their obligations and rights,” she said, adding “We . . . hope that the next Government will monitor how this changes women’s experiences of the workplace.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a welcome step towards getting rid of sexist dress codes in the workplace. But the new guidance won’t be enough if working people can’t afford to take sexist bosses to a tribunal,” also saying “The Government should scrap employment tribunal fees so it no longer costs hundreds of pounds to access justice.”

Employment law policies for businesses

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