News | Legal News

15 December 2017

Workplace dress codes - what’s acceptable?

The complexities and sensitivities around dress codes in the workplace have been analysed by some of Britain's leading philosophers.

Speaking to BBC News, Clare Chambers of Cambridge University outlined what is deemed reasonable and what could be seen as inappropriate.

Ms Chambers proposes a two-step test to judge whether an employer should be asking staff to dress in a prescribed way.

Firstly, ask if the dress code is particularly harmful or uncomfortable, and second whether it is deemed to be discriminatory or oppressive?

To put this into context, she continues: "Requiring men to wear a tie is a sexist requirement, but it's not oppressive because wearing a tie is associated with being powerful and professional. It doesn't demean the man wearing a tie, and although it might be a bit uncomfortable it's not seriously damaging to the body."

Conversely, she believes demanding women to wear high heels "is a requirement which is physically harmful and uncomfortable to the body".

Wearing heels can cause health issues such as foot and back problems, Ms Chambers explained.

"It also connects to sexist and oppressive norms - because women wearing high heels emphasises their sexual attractiveness and their objectification, rather than their professional capacities."

Wearing religious and cultural symbols is a controversial subject, with broad opinions being held on its appropriateness in the workplace.

Drawing comparisons between the burka and the miniskirt - which can both be considered the product of societies which benefit men - Anne Phillips of the London School of Economics, says the objection of women wearing burkas in roles such as teachers is a dangerous position to maintain.

"On what grounds can you say the person who is wearing this form of clothing has simply been brainwashed"? she asks.

She says society can only accept a woman's word that she is dressing for herself or her religion, rather than a form of patriarchal oppression.

"The idea that you refuse to take someone's words for doing what they're doing is problematic," she adds.

Chris Brazier

Chris Brazier

Tel: 01753 279029

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