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Formula has announced that it will no longer employ “grid girls” – the women who stand in front of cars before grand prixs – as it says the custom “does not resonate with [its] brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms”.
The announcement comes days after the Professional Darts Corporation stated that it will no longer use walk-on girls to accompany darts players onto the stage at the start of tournaments. The change in the PDC’s policy is reported to be due to pressure from broadcasters.
Emma O’Leary, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says the roles can potentially fall foul of discrimination legislation: “It’s not just that the walk on girls, or pit girls in F1, must be female, but there is a requirement to be attractive. It’s not strictly unlawful to put such a requirement in a job advert, but there are considerations that companies should take before doing so. Firstly, attractiveness is highly subjective and having this as a job requirement makes it very difficult to justify your recruitment decisions. This means that a company will find it very hard to justify rejecting someone with a protected characteristic, thereby leaving them open to a discrimination claim.
“If someone with a physical disability applied for the role, you could not automatically reject their application by saying that the disability caused that individual to not be attractive enough. They would have to be considered for the role on merit alone.
“Aside from that in employment law terms, employers can request an applicant be female if there is a genuine occupational requirement – such as for the personal care of a female patient. It’s difficult to see what the requirement here would be. While traditionally these ‘glamorous’ roles have been filled by women – they are after all known as pit girls and walk on girls – should a man apply for the job then equal consideration would have to be given.”