Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Justifying dress codes for men and women

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One might have imagined that so many years after the Sex Discrimination Act was passed, the issue of whether it is discriminatory to have different dress codes for men and women would be settled beyond debate. Apparently not so.

A Mr Dansie decided to take the Metropolitan Police to tribunal for telling him, on pain of disciplinary action, that he could not have his hair in a bun. When the tribunal found against him, he appealed. He lost.

The employment appeal tribunal's description of the law on dress codes is worth knowing. It states that, when considering discrimination by gender, it is necessary to look at a dress code as a whole. Simply because it contains different rules for men and women does not inherently make it discriminatory. It states: "In order to determine whether an employer treats members of one sex less favourably than the other it is necessary to consider the dress code as a whole, even although a single provision of the code may upset the balance of treating the sexes equally.

"A code which applies a conventional standard of appearance is not in and of itself discriminatory; looking at the code as a whole, neither sex must be treated less favourably as a result of its enforcement."

The same, of course, would apply to school dress codes for students, as well as staff.

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