Dress Code

You may remember the PwC high heels scandal of 2016 where a female employee was sent home for failing to wear heels that were 2-4 inches high. Like any moment of national outrage, petitions were launched and a shift in attitude/law was expected.

Dress Code Guidance Released

Well, after hearing evidence from hundreds of women who have been made to wear a different uniform to male colleagues, the government has released its new guidance. As with the gender pay-gap reporting regulations and the Taylor Report, the guidance lacks teeth.

In what is increasingly becoming a pattern of window dressing, the guidance stops short of imposing any sanctions for detrimental treatment or unfavourable treatment. Instead, it opts for phrasing such as:“Dress policies for men and women do not have to be identical, but standards imposed should be equivalent. Dress codes must not be a source of harassment by colleagues or customers, for example, women being expected to dress in a provocative manner.”

The current trend, whether through pay gap reporting, employment status or dress codes is to get the private sector to regulate itself. The problem here is that different businesses have different ideas of what is and is not fair or ethical, resulting in a scattergun, ununified approach to the issues.

ACAS will be releasing further guidance later this year but without altering the Equality Act or introducing new regulations with enforceable rights it is hard to see how this guidance will have any real impact.

This report coincides with news that a Jazz Bar in Shoreditch (eurgh) was looking for waitresses who were attractive (double eurgh) and able to serve food & drink wearing high heels (triple eurgh). Such wishy-washy guidance will not address entrenched – and sometimes subconscious – views that form part of society’s everyday sexism.