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Dress Codes in the Workplace

Headlines on dress codes are becoming more frequent and certainly catch the eye with the BBC’s “Can an employer demand that you go to work naked?” being no exception! The question raises a fair point – to what extent can employers dictate what its workforce wear to work?

Earlier this year, Parliament issued a joint report, prepared by the Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee, titled “High heels and workplace dress codes”. Following the Government’s response in April, we were expecting detailed guidance from the government in July. This guidance has not yet been published but is expected to cover the more “controversial” requirements including high heels, make-up, manicures, hair, hosiery, opacity of workwear, skirt length and low-fronted or unbuttoned tops.

Until further guidance is published, employers will need to bear in mind recent case law and the heightened risk of having a dress code challenged on not only grounds of sex discrimination but also on grounds of the other protected characteristics in the Equality Act. Religion or belief is one where employers should be particularly cautious, with recent case law considering the wearing of religious symbols and headscarves. Findings from these cases included that a policy can be justified on grounds of health and safety but portraying a consistent image for the business or meeting a customer’s requests do not provide justification of dress code requirements.

We don’t know yet what the scale of the financial penalties (if any) will be for employers, but until any further guidance is issued, we recommend erring on the side of caution and reviewing dress code policies in detail to ensure they cannot be said to be discriminatory or oppressive in any way. Employers are encouraged to consult with their employees and be flexible where possible.

In short, an employer cannot dictate what an employee wears to work. They can, however, put in place a balanced policy, which applies equally to men and women and which does not subject a particular group to a particular disadvantage. Employers should note that dress codes can be different for individual employees, depending on their circumstances, and that this may be necessary where strict policies are in place.

 

Dress Codes in the Workplace

National Minimum Wage Increase

Workers aged over 25 will receive an inflation-busting increase of 33p an hour in their national minimum wage. An above-inflation pay rise of 4.4 per cent starting April 2018 is over the 3 per cent rate of inflation which is in place at the moment. Following this, full-time workers will receive a £600 annual increase.
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National Minimum Wage Increase

Pay cap lift for police and prison officers

The 1% cap on public sector pay rises in England and Wales (which came into force in 2010) is to be lifted. The first professions to benefit will be police officers and prison officers. The government has announced that for the 2017/2018 FY police officers will receive a 1% pay rise plus a 1% bonus and prison officers will get a 1.7% rise, both of which will be funded from existing departmental budgets.
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Pay cap lift for police and prison officers

The Repeal Bill – Workers’ Rights

On 7 September 2017 the government published a factsheet on the impact of the Repeal Bill, which was recently passed by a majority of MPs, and the future status of workers' rights following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
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The Repeal Bill – Workers’ Rights

People Management article, featuring Michael Bronstein

As you may have seen, People Management recently published an article on some of the big developments in employment law in 2017, particularly Brexit and the Taylor review. The discussion featured Michael Bronstein, a partner here at Dentons. Michael gave some insight on the potential effects of withdrawing from the EU on employment legislation, acknowledging that there is 'a common misconception that all employment rights are created by the EU'. In the lead up to triggering Article 50, the government maintained that there would not be any change to workers' rights following Brexit, so it would be brave to take away key protections, many of which derive from UK law anyway. Other commentators suggested there may be reforms to TUPE, although agreed that it will stay, but perhaps in a slightly amended form. As for a new visa regime for workers, the outcome is unclear. The uncertainty has already caused many workers to leave at a time where we are beginning to see a shortage of labour. This has not been helped by the recent leaked Home Office post-Brexit Immigration Policy which has confirmed the fears of employers with respect to the future of EU workers in the UK.
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People Management article, featuring Michael Bronstein

Leaked Home Office post-Brexit Immigration Policy

As many of you will have seen, the Home Office's draft Post-Brexit Immigration Policy was leaked this week, and has since become a topic of much interest. The document has caused concern among many employers, as the stricter controls being proposed on EU immigration could lead to a significant shortage of labour in the UK, which could be hugely damaging to the economy. EU nationals currently comprise around 7% of the overall workforce in UK, with certain sectors almost entirely dependant on their contribution.
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Leaked Home Office post-Brexit Immigration Policy

President of the Employment Tribunals announces increase in the Vento Bands

Following a recent consultation, the President of the Employment Tribunals has announced a rise in the compensation that employees can recover for 'injury to feelings', in the event that they suffer from discrimination in the workplace.
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President of the Employment Tribunals announces increase in the Vento Bands

Brexit: A ‘Norway-style deal’?

The Labour Party has made it clear that it will not support the 'Great Repeal Bill' in its current form. It was reported last week that at least 15 Conservative MPs are in talks with a group of Labour MPs about a deal which could keep the UK signed up to the principle of free movement after it leaves the EU.
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Brexit: A ‘Norway-style deal’?

Good Work: Taylor Review on Modern Working Practices

The much anticipated independent review of modern working practices by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts, was published this week (11 July 2017). The review suggests a national strategy to provide good work for all "for which government needs to be held accountable". It takes the following into consideration when it talks about "good work": wages, employment quality, education and training, working conditions, work life balance, consultative participation and collective representation. Its key message is that everyone should enjoy a "baseline" of protection and be given routes to enable progression at work.
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Good Work: Taylor Review on Modern Working Practices

The rights of EU citizens in the UK

The UK government’s policy paper setting out its offer to EU citizens and their families in the UK has been published. The offer is different depending on how long a person has been in the UK.

People who have been continuously living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting “settled status”. A settled status residence document will prove an individual’s permission to continue living and working in the UK. Those already with an EU permanent residence document will be required to apply. The application process should come online before the UK leaves the EU, and hopefully in 2018. The government has pledged to make the application process as streamlined and user-friendly as possible.

A “cut-off date” will be relevant for other people. The “cut-off date” will be the date after which EU citizens will no longer automatically be entitled to stay in the UK. The date is still to be negotiated, but may fall at any point between 29 March 2017, the date that Article 50 was triggered, and the date that the UK leaves the EU.

People who arrived in the UK before the cut-off date, but will not have been here for five years when the UK leaves the EU will be able to apply to stay temporarily until they have reached the five year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status as set out above.

People who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under the future immigration arrangements for EU citizens. We do not yet know what the arrangements will be. The government has said that there should be no expectation by this group of people that they will obtain settled status.

Please see our newsletter at the end of the month for more information on this development.

The rights of EU citizens in the UK