Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Reasonable dress code

A teacher talking to a student

ASCL members are sometimes unnecessarily afraid of anti-discrimination legislation. For example, the right of an employer to insist on a reasonable dress code for employees has been once again upheld by an employment tribunal.

An employee of Jobcentre Plus decided on his own accord that it was discriminatory for him to be compelled to wear a collar and tie to work when female employees did not have to. In protest he began to wear Hawaiian shirts with clashing ties. When warned repeatedly for this he resigned and claimed constructive dismissal.

The tribunal declared, "The effect of the application of the dress code was the same for both sexes, and, if anything, easier for men to comply with. There was no more or less favourable treatment for women than men."

This is not carte blanche for open season on the head of sociology and his unusual dress sense, but it does reinforce previous judgements that a dress code does not have to impose identical requirements on men and women; it should be judged by its effects: ie whether one gender is disadvantaged in a significant way, taking all circumstances into account.

A dress code does also have to be reasonable in all circumstances, of course.

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