The Government is to introduce guidance and awareness campaigns on dress codes for employers after concerns were raised that some employers were forcing women to wear high heels at work.
The Government’s announcement comes in their response to an earlier report by the Petitions and Women and Equalities Committees, High heels and workplace dress codes.
The report called for the Government to take urgent action to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act in preventing discriminatory practices relating to dress at work. In particular, the Committees urged more guidance on dress codes to improve employers’ understanding of the law and workers’ rights, targeted at employers, workers and students.
The guidance will be produced during this summer and the Government will explore other options for raising further awareness of the law on dress codes. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has already run a social media campaign aimed at young women to promote awareness of the law. The Government rejected calls for further legislation on the issue of dress codes, arguing that existing legislation was “adequate”.
Helen Jones MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “This petition, and our inquiry, have already done a great deal to improve public awareness of the law. It is nevertheless very welcome that the Government has accepted our recommendation that it should be doing much more to improve understanding among employers and employees alike, to prevent discriminatory practices in the workplace. I very much hope that the next Government will honour the commitments made in the response to our report.”
Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “Equality legislation is not sufficient to achieve equality in practice. This petition, and the Committees’ inquiry, have reinforced the need for effective enforcement of legislation and for employers and employees to be aware of their obligations and rights. We welcome the commitments made by the Government to increasing awareness of those rights, and hope that the next Government will monitor how this changes women’s experiences of the workplace.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the announcement, saying: “This is a welcome step towards getting rid of sexist dress codes in the workplace. But the new guidance won’t be enough if working people can’t afford to take sexist bosses to a tribunal.
“The government should scrap employment tribunal fees so it no longer costs hundreds of pounds to access justice. This would mean workers can afford to put a stop to sexist dress codes in practice, as well as in legislation.”