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Dress codes and hot weather – dresses or dress down?

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Dress codes and hot weather – dresses or dress down?

As temperatures rise thoughts turn to the dilemma of what to wear to the office that will adhere to a smart dress code but will also be comfortable in the heat.

Dress codes are implemented for various reasons and it is generally accepted that in an office environment employees are expected to wear clothes that present a corporate image. However, strict office dress codes may be subject to challenge by employees if they feel they are unfair or unreasonable.

This was certainly the case with the call centre employee, Joey Barge, who, when sent home from work for wearing shorts on the hottest day of the year, returned in a dress on the basis that female employees were permitted to wear dresses and skirts.  

An employer’s dress code must not be discriminatory with reference to the protected characteristics under the Equality Act and must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements.

Any dress code should not be detrimental for one gender over another.  In situations such as the one Mr Barge found himself in employers would be wise to adopt a common sense approach.

Uncomfortable and irritable employees are unproductive employees. Unless the role is customer facing or employees will be dealing with clients, a degree of flexibility in certain circumstances (such as a very occasional heatwave) could prevent fever induced protests and (in extreme circumstances) tribunal claims for discrimination.  

As a result of Mr Barge’s stance the office dress code was amended to permit male employees to wear ¾ length shorts in neutral colours. This was widely considered on social media to be a victory for equality and Mr Barge’s male colleagues are no doubt grateful for the sartorial options now open to them the next time the sun makes an appearance!

For more information please contact Elaine Howard  who is an Associate Solicitor in our Employment team.

For advice concerning any employment matters generally please contact Elaine at our offices on 0121 314 0000 or ehoward@egl-law.com

Don’t forget to look at our downloadable guide to recent changes which can be found on our Employment Law services page or by clicking here

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