In the context of sex discrimination, the law relating to dress codes is well established in general terms. Where staff are required to wear uniforms it is allowable for an employer to insist that male and female staff wear different uniforms.

There have been recent reports in the news that a sales assistant has been effectively forced to leave her job because she refused to abide by a dress code that required all female shop assistants to wear make-up. It is not yet known whether she will bring a tribunal claim, but if she does, the decision of the tribunal is likely to be of interest to many, particularly employers in the retail and hospitality sectors.

What should employers do?

Employers should ensure that when setting dress codes they take into account sex discrimination law. Employers should also bear in mind that other forms of discrimination may arise, for example on grounds of religion, race or transgender. Discrimination may also arise by reason of age where an employee is required to dress inappropriately or by reason of disability.