New guidance on dress codes

The Government Equalities Office has issued new guidance on dress codes in the work place, to help employers maintain appropriate and non-discriminatory policies for their staff.

The guidance follows a high-profile case in 2016 concerning a receptionist for a well known private sector organisation who was allegedly sent home for wearing flat shoes, as the company had a policy requiring women to wear 2-4 inch heels. A petition was launched attracting approximately 150,000 signatures, prompting a Government review.

The Government concluded that there is no requirement to change the law, as current legislation (Equality Act 2010) provides adequate protection for individuals against sex discrimination.

However, the new guidance – “Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know” is aimed at helping employers to balance corporate image and health & safety, with protecting individuality and preventing discrimination because of a protected characteristic.

Key points of the guidance are:

• Dress code rules must be for good business reasons which are proportionate, appropriate and necessary.

• Dress codes do not have to be identical for men and women, but overall standards should be consistent with the business’s values, ie. strong corporate brand or health and safety.

• Employers should avoid gender specific requirements

• Flexibility regarding religious symbols should be exercised where they don’t interfere with the employee’s work

• Transgender employees should be able to choose a dress code that they feel matches their gender identity

• Consider if the application of your dress code is more burdensome to a disabled employee. Should exemption from the dress code be considered as a reasonable adjustment?

• It is recommended that employers consult with their work force when planning to introduce a new dress code.

Further information can be found at or

This article has been compiled by SJHR. Every care has been taken in researching the content of this article, but should not be relied upon as specific legal advice. The author cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.