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Have you been accused of discrimination for imposing a workplace dress code?

Achbita v G4S [2017] (CJEU, C-157/15)

The European Court of Justice has recently decided on a case on the extent to which dress codes can be imposed on employees who want to wear political or religious signs.

The court decided that employers must be able to objectively justify the reason for the dress code or this sort of imposition will be within the remit of indirect discrimination.

This can be onerous on the employer as they must establish there is a legitimate reason for not allowing religious or political paraphernalia on items of clothing. One of many examples of this is a need to show impartiality to customers or clients so they may not form opinions with adverse effects on the company. The employer will also have to demonstrate that their way of ensuring there is neutrality is appropriate and proportionate.

Whilst this is an onerous obligation for the employer, there is little guidance, however it can be interpreted that different standards apply to those with client/ customer contact and those behind the scenes.

It is also important to note the ECJ’s decision has clarified that non-compliance to these impositions will not implicate employers for direct discrimination but indirect discrimination.

Top tip: ensure your dress code is clearly worded with guidelines and justifications within your staff handbook or employment contract.

For advice on employment matters please contact Andinee Perry a solicitor in our employment team.