Government set to publish a new workplace dress code guidance – could this signal the end of gender discrimination in the workplace?
This week, it was announced that the Government is preparing to publish new workplace dress code guidance, following a controversial high heels petition.
The news comes in response to Nicola Thorp’s petition calling for the Government to consider making it illegal for employers to require women to wear high heels at work.
Nicola Thorp was at the centre of a high profile media campaign after she was sent home from work for wearing flat shoes rather than heels, due to the fact that the agency she worked for enforced a strict “grooming policy” stating that women must wear two-to-four inch heels at all times.
This led her to initiate a petition calling for the Government to intervene with current workplace dress code laws. The petition attracted over 152,000 signatures, proving that this is an issue that many people feel strongly about.
The new dress code guidance, scheduled to be published this summer, has been developed by The Government Equalities Office working with Acas, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Although there will be no changes to the law following Nicola Thorpe’s petition, the Government has made it clear that it will re-examine a number of controversial dress code requirements including high heels, make up, and certain gender specific attire such as low fronted or unbuttoned tops.
The Government was reluctant to make changes to the law, stating that “scope for redress already exists” in the Equality Act 2010, meaning it is already considered unlawful for an employer of any kind to either discriminate or harass an employee because of, or for reasons related to, their gender.
However, Maria Miller MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, has been quoted in a well-known media publication stating: “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.
“We welcome the commitments made by the Government to increasing awareness of those rights, and hope that the next Government will monitor how this changes women’s experiences of the workplace.”
It is hoped that the new dress code guidance will not only raise awareness of issues surrounding gender discrimination in the workplace, but that it will also put a stop to sexist dress codes at work.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has also been quoted in a well-known media publication stating: “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
“The Government should scrap employment tribunal fees so it no longer costs hundreds of pounds to access justice. This would mean workers can afford to put a stop to sexist dress codes in practice, as well as in legislation.”