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  1. ITV Report

What are your dress code rights?

Nicola Thorp was told she needed to wear 'two to four inch heels'

A receptionist was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels.

Nicola Thorp, 27, was told she needed to arrive for her job at an accountancy firm wearing "two to four inch heels", however she claims the policy is discriminatory as men could wear flat shoes.

Nicola Thorp was told high heels were part of the company's dress code Credit: ITV News

But what are your rights? Are you legally obliged to stick to your employees' dress code?

ACAS - the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service - offer assistance to both employers and employees and say companies often adhere to a dress code to either portray a corporate image or for health and safety reasons.

Doctors, for example, won't be allowed near patients wearing jewellery, or factory workers would be told not to wear loose clothing whilst operating machinery.

On their website, ACAS list four key legal points:

  • Employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy.
  • Employers may have health and safety reasons for having certain standards.
  • Dress codes must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements.
  • Reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when dress codes are in place.

However, each employee would likely sign a contract from the employer which details exactly what the requirements are, and offer a policy which constitutes a reasonable standard of dress or appearance.

Men could be asked to wear ties, whereas women could be asked to tie their hair back.

These policies vary in nature, and there are many exceptions which should be discussed with the employer:

  • Tattoos and body piercings
  • Religious Dress
  • People with disabilities

ACAS advise employers' dress code should be "clearly set out in the organisation's policy", and if they don't comply, "it may result in a disciplinary hearing".

Nicola Thorp, meanwhile, has started a petition - which has received over 30,000 signatures - asking for a change in the law to make it illegal for companies to force women to wear high heels.

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