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ACAS Issue Guidance to Employers on Dress Codes

ACAS have issued guidance for employers in relation to dress codes in the workplace. The guidance states dress codes may be used by employers to ensure workers are kept safe and dressed appropriately for their role, however employers should create specific codes that relate to the job to be carried out and which should be reasonable in nature.

In particular;

• Employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in their dress code policy;

• Employers may include certain requirements to comply with health and safety duties;

• Employers should ensure that dress codes apply equally to both men and women. However, there may be different requirements, for example “business dress” may mean a tie for men but this is not applicable to women.

• Employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people as regards their dress code policy if appropriate.

The Code further states:

“It is good practice when drafting or updating a dress code for an employer to consider the reasoning behind it. Consulting with employees over any proposed dress code may ensure that the code is acceptable to both the organisation and employees. Once agreed it should be communicated to all employees.”

The body also considered religious dress and dress codes. ACAS state that employers should take religious dress into account where possible. However, if religious dress poses a safety risk in the role to be carried out, employees may be required to comply with the dress code to ensure their safety.

However, it was stated that employers must be careful in this area and must be able to justify the reasons for banning any items of religious dress to avoid discrimination against these employees:

“Any restriction should be connected to a real business or safety requirement. Employers are therefore advised to think about the image they want to convey and about how they can work with employees to allow them to manifest their faith in a way that does not conflict with this image, or health and safety requirements, rather than provide a very strict and limiting dress code.”

Those familiar with the case of Eweida v British Airways plc (where Ms Eweida, a Christian, was refused permission to wear her crucifix so that this was visible while in uniform), will be aware of the pitfalls an employer can fall into where it imposes a rules on dress code without any legitimate basis for doing so.

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