Following the recent workplace equality row, a London bar has drawn criticism after posting a job advert for bar staff. The ad, by House of Wax, stated that “physical attractiveness is unfortunately necessary for this role” and, as well as a having a fun, lively attitude, it also specified that female applicants “must be comfortable wearing black heels during their shift”.
The backlash has been swift with Nicola Thorp, whose petition about high heels was debated in Parliament, leading the way. Why are businesses constantly risking falling foul of workplace equality legislation? We asked our experts.
Jacob Demeza-Wilkinson is an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group. He says: “This is actually a strange one. It isn’t unlawful to put such a requirement in a job advert however there are considerations that we would advise making before a company took the risk – and it is a risk – of posting an advert such as this.
“Firstly, you need to be aware that if someone with a physical disability applied, you can’t reject it because the disability meant they weren’t attractive enough. Applicants should be considered on merit alone.
“Secondly, you must also ensure that the policy applies equally to both male and female applicants. Solely asking for attractive female staff would be discriminatory as women would be put at a detriment. Furthermore attractiveness is highly subjective, and having this as a job requirement makes it very difficult to justify your recruitment decisions, which means a company will find it very difficult to justify rejecting someone with a protected characteristic thereby leaving them open to a discrimination claim. Given the Supreme Court’s recent decision to abolish tribunal fees a lot of people will now not even think twice before filing a claim.
“Finally, as we have seen from the backlash in this case, the damage done to your reputation can be significant. Whilst you may have technically done nothing wrong, reputation is something that every business will rank very highly. It is very hard to recover once the damage is done.
“With all of that in mind, whilst not incorrect, it’s highly advisable to avoid adverts containing criteria of this type. This ensures that you protect your business”.