Friday 6 March 2015: Many employers have a dress code in order to maintain their corporate image, professional standards or health and safety / job related requirements.
There is no limit within reason to the restrictions an employer can place on the clothing of its staff. It is, for example, acceptable to have different dress codes for women and men, providing equivalent standards are imposed on both. However attempts to impose new and unreasonable restrictions on employees could trigger constructive dismissal or discrimination claims.
In Eweida v British Airways plc, British Airways banned visible jewellery in its dress code. Ms Eweida was, therefore, unable to wear a two-inch high cross on a necklace visibly as a symbol of her faith. There was an exception in the British Airways policy, but only for items worn for mandatory religious reasons. The European Court of Human Rights upheld her application that there had been a failure to protect her religious freedom, which could not be justified by British Airways’ wish to protect its corporate image.
However ECtHR didn’t consider there to be a breach of rights in the Chaplin v Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. Again, it was a case concerning the wearing a crucifix on a uniform. However, Mrs Chaplin was a nurse and the desire to protect the health and safety of nurses and patients due to a ban on jewellery was permissible.
Tattoos are another problem area. Unless an employee can justifiably link a tattoo with a protected characteristic, then employers may well be able to dismiss employees who get themselves tattoos especially if in breach of codes of dress and appearance. A spiders’ web tattoo over your face is probably not a good idea if you want to work in a bank, for example.
Dress down Fridays are increasingly common, and hopefully most people will still dress appropriately, and not come to work in their bondage gear. Tee-shirts with offensive slogans could however give rise to unlawful harassment of colleagues.
It’s worth having some brief and basic guidelines for dress down Fridays – Trust the lawyers to spoil the fun.
Reculver solicitors is a firm of lawyers specialising in employment law and based in central London – Holborn WC1V. Call us today on 0207 118 0950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org