In light of a London receptionist being sent home for not wearing high heels, ELAS can offer expert advice on how a company can protect themselves from legislation while establishing and enforcing a dress code policy.
ELAS consultant Peter Mooney says there are three steps a company needs to consider when looking at a dress code policy.
Step 1 – What are you trying to achieve? Are you asking women to wear high heels because it makes them look better/sexier in your mind or is it to enhance a professional image in a client facing role? Peter says: “First impressions are important. In a sophisticated smart environment then it can be argued high heels add to a professional appearance, however the same could be achieved with formal flat shoes. A company needs to look at why they want women to wear heels. If its because they feel women are better to look at then stop. If it’s for professional/smarter appearance then yes this can be fine if the person is working in a client facing role. The important thing is that the policy is reasonable and needs to be applied equally to men doing a similar role. While you would never ask a man to wear high heels you could require them to wear a tie or have a neatly trimmed beard rather than stubble yet it would be inappropriate to ask a woman in the role if she had shaved her legs.”
Step 2 – Is what you are doing proportionate to what you are trying to achieve or are you going over the top?
Step 3 – Dress code should be balanced with other considerations such as health and safety, not just in the workplace but also for the person wearing the item of clothing. You wouldn’t expect someone to wear a tie around fast moving dangerous machines. Equally, forcing someone with a disability to wear high heels might exasperate conditions surrounding their disability.