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Sounds so petty but can my boss do this?

(30 Posts)
IncognitoIsMyFavouriteWord Mon 31-Mar-14 22:34:59

Our team work in a customer facing role.

I started last October. Our manager "doesn't like us to wear trousers".

Can he actually say this? All the other staff who don't have to meet customers can wear what they like (very casual most of them). We are all in a uniform which is provided but they only ever order us skirts.

Can they really say we must wear skirts because they look more professional? How do trousers look unprofessional?

I'm wanting to bring it up in a meeting in a couple of weeks time and I need to know how to approach it without being confrontational but also not letting him get away with, what I think, is blatant sexism.

WhatsTheWordHummingbird Mon 31-Mar-14 22:38:30

We all wear skirts (well apart from the men) in our work,but that is because the supplied trousers are vile. Any new starters are generally encouraged to wear / order skirts as it will look a lot more uniform.

IncognitoIsMyFavouriteWord Tue 01-Apr-14 03:12:16

I don't understand if you're all in the same matching blouse and then either wear the trousers or skirt of the same suit how it doesn't look uniform?

And really that's not what I asked. Can an employer actually dictate that you must wear a skirt if their is no actual reason why it has to be a skirt.

tracypenisbeaker Tue 01-Apr-14 03:32:40

I agree with you, for what its worth. I dont know the legalities, but I would imagine that this is not allowed. I am sure that they can't make you do something because of your sex. I would have a chat with HR.

tracypenisbeaker Tue 01-Apr-14 03:35:06

It's not really confrontational IMO- yes, sometimes in life you have to pick your battles, but to me this is a control thing that demeans you as a woman and says that you are a more effective worker when you are showing your legs.

confuddledDOTcom Tue 01-Apr-14 04:54:47

BA have managed to get away with changing the rules this year to say women have to wear skirts. I can't see how it can be legal TBH.

flowery Tue 01-Apr-14 08:28:44

Depends. If they impose a strict dress code on women but don't for men, then that might be discrimination. If their requirements for men are equally strict, but just different, that probably wouldn't be. You need to compare with other customer facing staff, not with colleagues who don't work in those roles, as it's perfectly reasonable to impose different dress requirements on that basis.

VashtaNerada Tue 01-Apr-14 08:31:53

Pretty sure you can't dictate uniform by gender - that's got to be against the Equalities Act, surely?

ThatBloodyWoman Tue 01-Apr-14 08:34:58

Tell them it's fine so long as the men look more professional in skirts too.

I would continue to wear trousers and lef them enforce their sexism then fight back, if they insist on introducing this.

ThatBloodyWoman Tue 01-Apr-14 08:36:16

Oh I see.
You only have skirts?

Ask for trousers.Easy.

Watch them either agree or squirm.

CharityCase Tue 01-Apr-14 08:37:08

Not sure- I imagine they can tell men they can't wear skirts. It's a stupid rule but not sure of the legalities.

flowery Tue 01-Apr-14 08:37:55

It's about whether women are treated less favourably. If men are required to wear trousers and a tie, but women aren't, it may be difficult to argue that a requirement to wear a skirt imposes a greater restriction on the women than there is on the men.

ThatBloodyWoman Tue 01-Apr-14 08:52:26

I would have thought it's easy to argue that an item of clothes that requires that you either wear restrictive sweaty tights with, or risk showing your pants when you bend over, imposes greater restrictions than a shirt and tie.

flowery Tue 01-Apr-14 09:07:08

Well if the OPs employer is requiring her to wear a skirt so short that she risks showing her underwear, then I might agree with you. Plenty of men would consider a tie pretty restrictive though.

BreakingDad77 Tue 01-Apr-14 09:12:44

I thought this boiled down to wether what you are wearing constitutes a uniform and your contract had made some mention of this pre requirement as part of the job up front?

Poledra Tue 01-Apr-14 09:12:50

Wasn't there, last summer, a case in the other direction in somewhere like Sweden? Where the male train drivers were wearing skirts as they had been banned from wearing shorts but their female colleagues could wear skirts?

Yes, here it is. Though the company saw sense and said they could wear shorts after all (or indeed, keep on with the skirts, if they wanted to!).

flowery Tue 01-Apr-14 09:15:01

OP perhaps you could clarify what customer-facing men are required to wear?

WhatsTheWordHummingbird Tue 01-Apr-14 10:27:18

Yes, good point re tie. We wear open collared bloses and the men wear oxford shirt and tie. I suppose, in the interests of fairness that should be the same too.

BankWadger Tue 01-Apr-14 11:15:33

I heard an interesting story about all the reception staff at a London university now having to wear black dresses and pearls. I kid you not.

I suggested the staff come to MN to get support with having this daft ruling over ruled.

Bahhhhhumbug Tue 01-Apr-14 11:18:37

I'm not sure if they only have skirts. I think OP is saying there are trousers available as part of company uniform but her immediate boss only orders skirts for the female customer facing staff. I think it is sexual discrimination definitely but maybe a light hearted but assertive approach first might be better. If that doesn't work I would take it further as you have the law behind you. It would be possibly slightly easier to fight if you had a male member of your team as then you would have a comparator but imo it is still sexist and shouldn't be to difficult to support even without one or with a hypothetical one i.e. any potential male employee would obviously be allowed to wear trousers or a 'skirt' as in robe if his religion/ethnicity dictated.

flowery Tue 01-Apr-14 13:50:26

Bahhhhhumbug you really can't say it's definitely discrimination without knowing what the arrangements for men are as you have no way of knowing whether women are being treated less favourably.

It's also irresponsible to advise the OP that she could "fight" it on the basis of making assumptions that a hypothetical man would have fewer or less onerous restrictions on his appearance.

If there are no men, the women are not being treated less favourably, and are simply saying that they don't like the uniform that is provided and would prefer to wear something else.

HermioneWeasley Tue 01-Apr-14 14:27:14

Agree with flowery. This has been tested in case law several times (and men challenging the requirement to wear a tie as discriminatory as well) and the precedent is well established that it is about equally restrictive/professional requirements for both genders. If women have to wear a strict uniform and men can wear whatever they want then it may well be unlawful discrimination, but OP hasn't told us that.

Bahhhhhumbug Tue 01-Apr-14 14:38:55

flowery the use of a comparator is the most effective way of proving discrimination but in the absence of one the use of the companys policy for the opposite sex , can suffice.

I did say 'It would be possibly, slightly easier to fight if you had a male member of your team' . Also I said '^I think^ it is sexual discrimination definitely.' Of course I don't know if there are any male colleagues in the same department but if not there must be a dress code.

I somehow doubt if the OP asks to see the company policy for dress code that it will state that men have to wear skirts (or that men are only allowed to wear trousers even if their religion dictates robes of some sort for that matter). The only possible reason for them insisting on skirts for women is gender related , including stereotyping , woman being perceived for part decorative purposes , and so on.

I worked in the NHS for many years and I fully remember all the ridiculous arguments and resistance from many of the 1950s mentality management against allowing female nurses to wear trousers, which we all know what the (only reasonable) outcome of was.

flowery Tue 01-Apr-14 14:45:41

Ok well you stick with your view that it's definitely discrimination with no basis for that view and I'll stick with knowledge of actual case law on this subject if that's all the same to you.

HermioneWeasley Tue 01-Apr-14 17:02:15

grin at flowery

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