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Employer requiring women to wear skirt/dress

(51 Posts)
howmanyusernames Mon 19-Feb-18 11:23:00

I recruit for a client who, due to their religion, requires women to wear skirts/dresses and not trousers to work.
Most of my candidates will take it or leave it, and I completely understand and respect that, but I've had one this morning who said it's a 'blatant case of sex discrimination' and breaches the 2010 Equality Act. Oh and that it doesn't reflect well on my business.....

I have read up online, and read the following in an article...

'It depends on the circumstances. When an employee of Austicks Bookshops Ltd, Miss Schmidt, refused to comply with a rule stating that female staff who came into contact with the public weren’t allowed to wear trousers, she was dismissed. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal said it was not discrimination as the company had imposed a different but equivalent dress code on male staff. In other words, employers can treat men and women differently, as long as one of the sexes is not treated less favourably'.

Obviously I don't want to do anything wrong, so can employers as this of the female staff?

Ifailed Mon 19-Feb-18 11:28:35

OP, I believe there have been a few cases about this, but unfortunately employers can still get away with this. Nicola Thorp took PwC to a tribunal about having to wear high-heels, you may remember?

Do you have a union you could talk to?

howmanyusernames Mon 19-Feb-18 11:59:35

I'm a recruitment agency, it's my client who says the women have to wear skirts/dresses (because of their religion), and it's never been an issue until this morning when a candidate said what she did. Most of the time they will say 'I'm not comfortable with that, sorry' and it's fine, but as this one said it was reflecting badly on my business it hit more of a nerve.

Evelynismycatsformerspyname Mon 19-Feb-18 12:04:09

I don't believe there is a religion that explicitly bans women from wearing trousers. Strict old fashioned Christians and Muslims might well demand most clothing, but trousers and skirts/ dresses are equally likely to be "immodest". The religious basis for the dress code sounds like bollox.

Evelynismycatsformerspyname Mon 19-Feb-18 12:04:42

*"modest" not most

giraffesatthezoo Mon 19-Feb-18 12:09:02

To be honest, I agree it doesn't reflect well on your business as it sounds as though you said 'ok, fair enough' to the client without doing due diligence yourself.

Presumably you don't just place women with this client. What are the restrictions they place on male staff re: clothing? What kind of work is it - i.e., is it a religious school, or is it a business that just happens to be owned by a religious person? There are definitely circumstances where you could be opening yourselves up, and circumstances where it could be allowed, but it seem quite blasé you've never questioned this before now.

senua Mon 19-Feb-18 12:13:30

Why are you enabling this? Shame on you.

Akire Mon 19-Feb-18 12:15:07

It’s not wearing of skirts would be pain it would be expectation of high heels to go with them. That’s the difference between men women dresss codes. Wearing a tie dosnt give you back ache, painful or deformed feet.

Would be difficult surely wearing trousers covers up more than someone wearing a very short skirt. Unless you go into how long skirts have to be territory

Riverside2 Mon 19-Feb-18 12:15:49

So from a legal standpoint, it's definitely fine for them to ask that?

I am planning to go freelance, and I have to say, it's the type of client I wouldn't take. I'm not a recruiter but I would not want any connection with a client who dictated what men or women should wear in the workplace.

Also, I've found recruiters completely great in the past and I would be shocked if they represented someone like that (though of course it's likely they have and I just don't know. I think recruiters would guess that there's no way it would be sensible to suggest a job at that type of place, for me).

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Mon 19-Feb-18 12:21:42

Tbh I think it depends entirely on the job and the religion. What religion insists on skirts?

Medeci Mon 19-Feb-18 12:23:58

What religon is it that bans trousers?
I know some don't allow women to wear tight fitting or revealing clothing, fair enough as out of place in most work environments, but trousers with tunics/dresses cover up most of the body.
Unless the client has said its for religious reasons but really wants women to wear skirts and dresses so their legs are on show.

Twickerhun Mon 19-Feb-18 12:24:42

Do men sent there have a dress code ?

snowgirl1 Mon 19-Feb-18 12:26:34

There are a few religions that require women to wear skirts - some orthodox Jews, Pentecostal Christians, and I believe some Mormons. It's more likely to be considered discriminatory if the employer doesn't have an even-handed dress code for both sexes. So if the employer has a dress code for male employees that requires them to wear a tie, then it's more likely not to be discriminatory. If they have no dress code for men and they can turn up in whatever they like, then women are being treated less favourably than men and that's discriminatory.

There is case law where a male employee at Safeway tried to bring a claim that the requirement for men to have short hair was discriminatory - it was found not to be discriminatory because Safeway had requirements for both sexes to dress 'conventionally'.

howmanyusernames Mon 19-Feb-18 12:30:21

They're part of the Brethren community.

LifeBeginsNow Mon 19-Feb-18 12:44:58

I've just finished working for brethren and I have nothing nice to say. They come across as lovely when you first meet them but they are bitter, nasty and only interested in themselves.

As a woman, they really didn't like me having an opinion on anything and I think that's what ultimately lead to me being let go. Humiliating as it was, it's definitely for the best. The ridiculous rules are so antiquated! Not just the dress code but also using the internet for work purposes is a mission as everything is bloody blocked!

Riverside2 Mon 19-Feb-18 12:45:38

this is going to be about interpretation of the law though isn't it, so there's potential for a test case though I bet it wouldn't go far.

are you worried that the candidate is going to make some kind of complaint about you or are you worried about how it makes your business look?

Medeci Mon 19-Feb-18 12:47:50

Interesting, never heard of the Brethrens before so just googled.
Presumably the client would want women to wear an ankle length dress/skirt.
Is there a dress code for men?
If not then could be viewed as sex discrimation.

Sarahjconnor Mon 19-Feb-18 12:49:22

Do you always wear a skirt or dress is case your client visits?

I refuse to tolerate religious bigots in my business and more often than not they then change their mind as we are the no 1 supplier of a very sought After service. I wouldn’t be able to love with myself if I was part of the system that oppresses woman.

daisychain01 Mon 19-Feb-18 12:52:35

Are you a decision maker in which clients you recruit for.

If it was my decision, I would distance myself from any organisation that buys into all that "for religious purposes" stuff. It doesn't align well to our belief system and legal framework, in UK to single out and tell women how they should dress. Simple as. It's back to the dark ages!

You don't need to say explicitly why you want to drop the client, but just don't find any candidates for them and they'll get the message.

daisychain01 Mon 19-Feb-18 12:54:41

What does "dress conventionally" even mean nowadays. People shouldn't be treated like idiots, most people do know how to dress for work. Why do they need to be dictated to.

howmanyusernames Mon 19-Feb-18 13:01:34

I work with three Brethren businesses, all of them use my agency exclusively and will deal with only me (I'm female). They definitely respect me as a woman and have no issues with me.

Two of them insist on the skirt/dress thing, but one is more relaxed about it and is happy for women to wear trousers. My clients just say it has to be a 'respectable length' so a mini-skirt might be deemed to be too short, but then it would in any office? They definitely don't insist on it being ankle length! smile
All of them use email and the internet/social media.

I obviously don't want to break any laws, and also don't want this to reflect badly on my business. This is the first time in 10 years of working with the Brethren community that someone has said this to me. Usually people just say they're not comfortable with it, and that's totally fine. Most people, however, are fine with it, know how kind the Brethren community is, and are eager to work for them.

This person did start asking for the company name etc which is why I also started worrying.

flowery Mon 19-Feb-18 13:12:58

There's two questions really. Whether a business can get away with a requirement like that legally, and whether it fits with your own business ethos and values.

It may be that if they claim it is for religious reasons and are similarly prescriptive for men, they might be able to successfully defend it if a claim is brought. But IMO just because an employer may be able to get away with something legally that doesn't mean it's right.

I would agree it doesn't reflect particularly well on your business to have these people as clients. They wouldn't be consistent with my own business values so I wouldn't work with them.

Ylvamoon Mon 19-Feb-18 13:25:12

Would they supply the uniform? If yes... I think it's reasonable to ask. If no, and the employee had to supply own clothes, I think it should be suitable for the job role... Smart , Overalls... Whatever. (I don't own any skirts and it would take a lot for me to wear one...)
I also think as the agency, it is down to you to ensure everything is lawfully executed.

MichaelBendfaster Mon 19-Feb-18 13:31:34

Why are you enabling this? Shame on you.

I think this too. Whether or not you're in legal hot water (or the client is), I find this morally indefensible in what is supposed to be a pluralistic society.

TellsEveryoneRealFacts Mon 19-Feb-18 13:35:07

Do you always wear a skirt when you are dealing with them?

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