Dressed to impress: the workplace dimension

18 Sep 2014

Amongst the recent raft of new Guides from ACAS is one relating to dress codes and appearance in the workplace.

There isn’t any recent new case law in this area, but the issues of tattoos and body piercings in particular are exercising some employers.  For instance, we have recently advised various businesses on these issues, from professional service firms and estate agents to manufacturers, both in the context of recruitment as well as day to day working arrangements.

Many employers are keen to portray a corporate image that is a manifestation of their professionalism and quality. For any member of staff who might come into contact with a customer or client, personal presentation is often seen as a key part of this.

Those in HR will recognise the need to take account of the Equality Act 2010, particularly in relation to the protected characteristics of religion and belief. What is less straight-forward is where the law doesn’t give a clear answer, but sets a competing set of expectations.

While employers feel that they should have control over how their staff present themselves, many employees feel that part of their individuality as a human being is not something which they should have to compromise.

There may be a generational dimension here: one statistic readily quoted relates to the  low percentage (c. 5%) of those over 60 with tattoos, compared with a far higher percentage of younger people – it is said that possibly as many as half those in their 20's have some tattoo or other body art.

Will this give rise to a rash of indirect age discrimination claims from employees and job applicants arguing that dress and appearance codes are unlawful discrimination?  I very much doubt it.

However, what is causing greater concern is the fact that younger staff feel that it is an invasion of their personal lives to ask questions about body art, and that it is a bridge too far when their employer tells them that they must cover up.

Again, it is unlikely that there will be a substantial number of successful claims brought on the basis that an individual’s right to a personal life is being interfered with.

However, those employers actively seeking to connect with a younger audience – whether employees or customers – may find themselves pressured into reviewing their absolutist policies.  A measured approach following consultation with staff is likely to help introduce a more sustainable policy.

Further reading

Use of statutory demand to make company insolvent suspended until June

Blog, Legal Updates
08/04/2021
Cheraine Williams looks at more temporary Covid-driven measures that will protect businesses and tenants from possible legal action
Read more Read

New guidance issued for valuation of flats and investigating fire safety

Blog, Legal Updates
07/04/2021
Cheraine Williams looks a the current situation facing leaseholders looking to sell or re-finance their property; will new guidance provide clarity?
Read more Read

Government sets new energy targets for domestic and commercial buildings

Blog, Legal Updates
06/04/2021
UK law requires net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; new rules and standards for heating and powering buildings will have a significant impact
Read more Read

Covid regs prevent landlords taking action to recover rent for more than 500 days

Blog, Legal Updates
01/04/2021
Just seven days’ rent arrears used to be enough for commercial landlords to take action; the latest adjustment pushes that out to 554 days
Read more Read
  • Brighton Office

    1 Jubilee Street

    Brighton

    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Gatwick Office

    Griffin House

    135 High Street

    Crawley

    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford Office

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road

    Guildford

    Surrey

    GU3 1LR

  • Horsham Office

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax

    Horsham

    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London Office

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane

    London

    EC4A 3BF

  • Get in touch