Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Sexist dress codes need to go

Employers who enforce sexist dress codes could face tougher punishment according to a local solicitor.

John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the Government was reviewing a report put together by the Women and Equalities Commission and the Petitions Commission.

“It all started with a parliamentary petition set up by receptionist Nicola Thorp which aimed to make it illegal for companies to force employees to wear high heels to work.

“She had been sent home from a job placement after being told it was her agency’s ‘grooming policy’ for women to wear two-to-four inch heels, and her petition received more than 150,000 signatures.”

Mr Mehtam said the Government was now considering the report and if it followed the recommendations set out in the document, employers could face stricter punishment and larger fines.

“The report is calling for more effective remedies such as financial penalties for employers who breach the law, and it could mean tribunals make a much tougher stance.”

The report includes medical evidence from the College of Podiatry suggesting that women who have to wear high heels for long periods of time could suffer long-term health difficulties.

“A web forum was also set up to gather evidence from women who had been forced to adhere to certain dress codes, and many said they had to wear high heels as part of a workplace policy in the retail, hospitality, airline or corporate industries,” said Mr Mehtam.

“But with the cost of employment tribunals rising, many women can’t afford to challenge these sexist policies, and so the practice has continued for much longer than it should have. Now that this report has been completed, it’s clear that employers need to act responsibly and take the findings into consideration.

“The best approach would be to stay one step ahead of the process and update your corporate dress code policies as soon as possible to reflect your commitment to protecting the health and safety of your employees.

“It seems very strange that in 2017 bosses still expect female employees to wear painful, inappropriate shoes and uniforms, and this report and the public response to the petition are a clear indication that it’s time for change.”