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Stiletto storm

The headlines this week generated by Nicola Thorp, the receptionist who was sent home because she refused to wear two-
inch high heels, has again highlighted the issues that employers need to consider when applying their dress
code policies.

17 May 2016

Thorp was employed by Portico to work as a corporate receptionist and, on her first day in the role, was told to go home without pay because she refused to buy shoes that had heels between two and four inches high. Thorp has since launched an online petition, which has already gathered more than 122,000 signatures,
to try to make it illegal for employers to force women to wear high heels at work. Given that dress codes can often be a contentious matter within the workplace, it is not surprising that disputes over how they are applied crop up fairly frequently. Indeed, earlier this year, British Airways settled a long-running dispute over its dress code after it agreed to allow female new recruits to wear trousers.

So, what are the legal parameters for enforcing dress codes? From an employment law perspective, the starting point is that a dress code will not amount to direct sex discrimination if it imposes diffe...

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