Guidelines on work dress codes including high heels, make-up and hair colour are to be published after a petition over stilettos inspired a rethink over employee discrimination. 

The government will issue guidance and raise awareness after the Petitions and Women and Equalities committees urged a better understanding of workers' rights. However, it will not introduce new legislation and ruled out higher levels of compensation.  

The committee's inquiry was launched after a female working at an accountancy firm in London was sent home for wearing smart flat shoes and refusing to go out and buy ones with a two-four inch heel, which her employer’s dress code stipulated.

Discrimination.

She subsequently launched an online petition titled “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work,” which attracted 152,420 signatures and sparked the report into workplace equality.  

Amongst its findings were examples of widespread discrimination and that employees felt unable to complain because they did not understand the law.  

'Employers lack awareness.'

Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: “We are clear that the law to deal with this sort of discrimination is adequate, but we recognise that some employers lack awareness of the law or even choose to flout it, taking advantage of reluctance by employees to take action when they feel discrimination has occurred,” a statement said. 

Alison Starmer, managing director of Randstad client solutions, said employers should abide by both the letter and the spirit of all anti discriminatory legislation.

“Dress codes are an important part of setting the right professional and cultural tone of any company but as this report shows, some have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable.

“Huge strides have been made to improve gender equality across all industries however dress code is an area that is often forgotten when looking at equality issues”

Dress code law.

“Company dress codes must be reasonable and must make equivalent requirements for men and women. This is the law and employers must abide by it. 

“Employers are entitled to set dress codes for their workforce but the law is clear that these dress codes must be reasonable.

"That includes any differences between the nature of rules for male and female employees, otherwise the company may be breaking the law. 

“Employers should not be discriminating against either sex in what they require them to wear."