End discriminatory dress codes, say MPs

MPs have today urged the Government to ban sexist dress codes at work that discriminate against women.

The issue was debated in Parliament after a petition last year gained more than 150,000 signatures.

The debate follows the story of a big four accountancy firm receptionist, Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work in December 2015 for not wearing high heels.

Parliament heard how Ms Thorp was dismissed from the office after failing to adhere to her employment agency’s dress code, stipulating that women must wear heels between two and four inches high.

“This may have started over a pair of high heels, but what it has revealed about discrimination in the UK workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward via the committees’ online forum,” Ms Thorp said.

“The current system favours the employer, and is failing employees.”

MPs listened to further stories of discriminated women, some of whom alleged that they had been told to wear shorter skirts, unbutton blouses, and abide by dress codes detailing nail varnish shade and hair root colour.

Helen Jones MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “The way that Nicola Thorp was treated by her employer is against the law, but that didn’t stop her being sent home from work without pay.

“It’s clear from the stories we’ve heard from members of the public that Nicola’s story is far from unique.”

In a report, MPs argued that the Equality Act 2010 bans discriminatory dress rules at work, but in practice the law is not applied properly to protect workers of either gender.

“The Equality Act is clear in principle in setting out what constitutes discrimination in law,” it said.

“Nevertheless, discriminatory dress codes remain commonplace in some sectors of the economy. We call on the government to review this area of the law and to ask parliament to change it, if necessary, to make it more effective.”

Carter Lemon Camerons LLP solicitors is a City law firm which provides legal services with a personal touch covering the full range of employment law issues. For more information about our employment law services, please contact Andrew Firman or telephone: 020 7406 1000.