Can you force women to wear at heels at work?
I am sure that many people will have seen the story in the press about the receptionist who was sent home for refusing to wear high heels. When she arrived at work wearing flat shoes, she was referred to the dress code and told to go home without pay unless she was prepared to wear shoes with a heel of between 2 and 4 inches. She refused and was apparently then sent home. The question that this has raised is whether this is lawful.
In the UK, as long as it follows its disciplinary procedures, an employer can dismiss a staff member who fails to live up to a reasonable dress code. It is perfectly reasonable to set different dress codes for men and women as long as they are similar in their levels of smartness but can high heels be a requirement for a ladies’ dress code or does this amount to sexism? The answer will depend on why the high heels are required. To be lawful, it would be necessary to demonstrate that the high heels were a job requirement but in the majority of cases, this would be very difficult to prove. There are also health and safety concerns if you force women to wear high heels all day.
If you have a dress code and have any questions about it or want to impose a new dress code, please do call us to discuss your requirements as this case shows how easy it is to fall into a potentially expensive trap.