UK: Diversity Developments – presentation of pay gap data, proposals on parental leave and dress code guidance

  • The Government Equalities Office has published the findings of a commissioned study (here) concluding that the clearest and most accessible way of presenting gender pay gap figures is to display them visually as coins or as the amount which women earn for every £1 men earn (rather than percentages). The latter approach has now been added to the data on the government’s pay gap website, which also now includes bar charts to show the gender split by pay quartile and displays an employer’s data all on one page. The study also found that benchmarking improved comprehension, so may lead to pressure on the government to add visual benchmarking to the published data in future.

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UK: Dress codes – Governmental report on female office dress codes

At the end of April the government published its response to the House of Commons Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee joint report on dress codes in the workplace. It rejected any recommendations that would require legislative change, favouring an approach based on more detailed guidance and awareness campaigns. New guidance covering high heels, make-up, manicures, hair, hosiery, opacity of workwear, skirt length and low-fronted or unbuttoned tops will be published in summer 2017.

UK: ECJ rules dress code requiring neutral appearance may be lawful

The European Court of Justice has finally handed down its judgment in two cases involving employees dismissed for wearing an Islamic headscarf at work, Achbita and Bougnaiou.  The Advocate-General opinions in the cases took very different approaches as to whether dress codes should be classified as direct or indirect discrimination and as to the extent to which the employer's business interests could justify restricting an individual's freedom to display their religious identity.

Employers will welcome the ECJ's ruling that a dress code prohibiting visible signs of political, philosophical or religious belief in the workplace is to be viewed as potential indirect discrimination rather than direct discrimination.  The distinction is important as indirect discrimination can be lawful if it is objectively justified, ie it is an appropriate and necessary means of achieving a legitimate aim, whereas direct discrimination cannot be justified (except in very limited circumstances).

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UK: Legislative developments – dress codes

The House of Commons Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee have published a joint report calling for more effective remedies against employers who require female staff to wear high heels at work, and for Acas guidance on dress codes to be improved. Parliament is due to debate the issue in March, and the Government is expected to publish its response to the report within two months.

UK: New publications – ACAS guidance – productivity, terminal illness, dress codes, gender pay gap reports

Acas has issued guidance for line managers to help run effective teams and on dealing with life-threatening conditions at work, and has updated its dress code guidance in light of research showing discrimination against employees with visible tattoos.  It has also asked for managers and HR professionals to complete a short survey to assist with the production of guidance on the gender pay gap reporting obligation expected to come into force in April 2017.