Bosses must not ask women to wear high heels or wear their hair in certain styles, the government has said.
Requirements regarding a woman’s appearance were likely to be unlawful if there was no equivalent requirement for men, the guidance from the Government Equalities Office said. It added that dress codes should not be a source of harassment, such as “women being expected to dress in a provocative manner”.
However, a code requiring all staff to “dress smartly” would be lawful, provided the definition of smart was reasonable, “such as a two-piece suit in a similar colour for both men and women, with low-heeled shoes for both sexes”. The guidance adds that it is likely to be unlawful to require female staff to wear high heels because there is no male equivalent.
Employers are also urged to be “flexible” over religious symbols and not to ban them if they do not interfere with an employee’s work.
Dan Begbie-Clench, a partner at the law firm Doyle Clayton, said that the guide was “common sense” and reflected “recent trends in the courts and society”.
However, Beverley Sunderland, managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors, said that the advice was too vague, describing it as a “Janet and John” guide.