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Fine firms for sexist dress rules, say MPs

Fine firms for sexist dress rules, say MPs

The parliamentary committees for Petitions and for Women and Equalities have produced a joint report which confirms that, despite the Equality Act 2010 banning discriminatory dress rules at work, in practice, the law is not applied properly to protect workers of either gender. 

This report follows the experience of London receptionist, Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work in December 2015 for not wearing high heels.  Her parliamentary petition on the issue gained more than 150,000 signatures.  Nicola was told she should wear shoes with heels between 2 and 4 inches high and, when she refused, saying that it would be bad for her feet and that male colleagues were not asked to follow the same rules on their clothes, she was sent home without pay.  And it’s not just high heels – MPs also heard from women asked to wear shorter skirts, low cut blouses as well as dress codes detailing nail varnish shade and hair colour.

The report recommends a publicity campaign be launched to ensure that employers know their legal obligations and that workers know their rights and how to complain effectively.  Its key recommendation, however, is that the existing law should be enforced more vigorously, with employment tribunals being given the power to apply bigger financial penalties.

A government spokesperson said:  “No employer should discriminate against workers on grounds of gender – it is unacceptable and against the law.  Dress codes must be reasonable and include equivalent requirements for both men and women.  The Government Equalities Office will carefully consider this report and will work with its partners to make sure employers comply with the law”.

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