26 April 2017

The parliamentary committees that took up the investigation of workplace dress codes following some well-publicised cases last year have welcomed the Government's decision to issue new guidelines on the subject.

The Petitions and Women and Equalities Committees issued a joint report entitled High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes.

This called for the Government to take urgent action to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act in preventing discriminatory practices relating to dress at work. In particular, MPs urged the Government to introduce guidance and awareness campaigns to improve understanding of the law and workers' rights.

Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said: "Equality legislation is not sufficient to achieve equality in practice. This petition, and the Committees' inquiry, have reinforced the need for effective enforcement of legislation and for employers and employees to be aware of their obligations and rights."

Now the Government has responded to the report and agreed that some of the evidence presented to the Petitions Committee during its inquiry suggested employment practices in some industries which appear sexist, unacceptable and potentially unlawful.

"In 2017," it went on, "such practices should not be part of the workplace."

The full response is available on the Parliament website and explains that ministers are working closely with Acas, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Health and Safety Executive to produce guidance by summer 2017.

The announcement was welcomed by the TUC, although it warned that guidance would not be sufficient in itself if working people cannot afford "to take sexist bosses to a tribunal".

General Secretary Frances O’Grady called on the Government to scrap employment tribunal fees so that "it no longer costs hundreds of pounds to access justice".