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Can employers insist on what their employees wear to work?

Nicola Thorp, a temporary receptionist at a city firm, and was told that unless she wore high heels to work, that she would be sent home without pay. She refused to do so, claiming that she preferred to wear more comfortable lower heels. She was promptly sent home as she breached the dress code which set out that high heels should be worn.

Miss Thorp has set up a petition to the government stating that the law is ‘outdated and sexist’. She has received much support.

UK employers have a wide discretion on the dress policy for their business. This can differentiate between different types of employee, for example a smarter appearance can  be required for those in a customer facing role. There can also be a different policy for male and female employees , provided that it is reasonable and there is a requirement for an equivalent level of smartness.

It is always advisable for any dress code to be incorporated into the office manual so that the requirements are clear and available to all employees.

For legal advice on employment issues please contact  Janice Leyland on 01643 707777 or janice.leyland@maitlandwalker.com.