April 21, 2017

UK government rejects calls to ban discriminatory workplace dress codes

UK government rejects calls to ban discriminatory workplace dress codes

The UK government has decided against introducing a new law to prevent employers from forcing women to wear high heels at work.

An inquiry on workplace dress codes was held by the women and equalities select committee after a petition calling for changes gained over 152,000 signatures last year. The petition was set up by Nicola Thorp, who was dismissed from a temporary receptionist role for refusing to wear high heels.

The committee report points out cases of women being made to reapply makeup, dress in revealing clothing, or wear high heels in jobs that require heavy lifting and walking long distances. However, the inquiry concludes that current “law to deal with this sort of discrimination is adequate”, citing the Equality Act 2010.

Under the Equality Act 2010, dress codes that make “significantly more demands” of female employees are illegal. The committee also suggests that implementation of this legislation needs drastic improvement, and they urge the government “to introduce guidance and awareness campaigns to improve understanding of the law and workers' rights.” Sectors including tourism, travel, temp agencies, retail, and hospitality are highlighted in the report as key areas for improvement.

Soohyung Lee has written for IZA World of Labor about the impact of physical appearance in the workplace. She reports that “the premiums associated with beauty are sizable and are found across countries” and so “it is important for society and policymakers to directly address such discrimination through legal and social measures.”

Find more related articles from IZA World of Labor:
Does it pay to be beautiful?, by Eva Sierminska
Workplace discrimination
Gender divide