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May 2017

Dress Codes at Work

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You have probably seen there has been a lot in the news recently about dress codes at work.

High Heels - Dress Code

An employee who had been sent home for refusing to wear heels at work launched an e-petition calling for it to be made illegal for an employer to make women wear high heels. This attracted more than 150,000 signatures and a debate in parliament. More recently, two cases were taken to the court by women who were fired for refusing to remove their religious headscarves.

So, by law, what can and can’t an employer tell staff to wear?


  • Whilst a dress code could be implied into the employment contract of a particular job, if an employer has certain requirements or expectations about what their employees are to wear to work then this should be made a term of the employment contract
  • When formulating a dress code, its advisable to have a term dealing with appearance and a separate one dealing with dress, so as to cover situations where employees attend work with bizarre haircuts, facial tattoos etc.
  • A dress code must not be discriminatory, that is being seen as treating an employee less favourably due to one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, such as sex, race, religion, age or disability
  • Dress codes should relate to the job and be reasonable in nature
  • Dress codes may have different requirements for men and women, for example when requiring conventional appearance for a particular job, but the employer must enforce compliance of the differing requirements in the same way for both genders
  • Even where a dress code is justifiable, an Employer should consider any legitimate objections from an employee, e.g. due to ill-health
  • An employer must make reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when dress codes are in place
  • Employers may have health and safety reasons for certain standards of dress
  • A dress code should take into account the racial or religious requirements of workers

That said, going back to the case of women being fired due to failure to remove religious symbols (headscarves), the court ruled against them: ‘An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination.’

In relation to the matter of high-heels at work, the requirement to wear high heels had been included in the employer’s dress code, which the employee had signed.   The employer considered it was promoting a certain level of smartness consistent with present law on dress codes.

However, there are a number of health concerns regarding the wearing of high heels, which can cause damage to the joints of the feet, increases wear and tear round the knee joints, which might increase the risk of arthritis and also puts people with a weak lower back at risk of slipped vertebrae.

The employer in question has since revised its dress code, so as not to require women to have to wear high heels and there is expectation that the government will introduce new dress guidelines this summer.

Think your contracts or handbooks may need reviewing in relation to dress codes and uniform? We can help. Call Andrew Brett on 020 8884 2277


Andrew Brett, Solicitor

Staff Spotlight Stevenage Office Kim Osborne

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Barnes and Partners


Every month our team nominates colleagues at Barnes and Partners to feature in our Staff Spotlight. It is a way we can celebrate the excellence of our staff and give you a glimpse into the day-to-day life of our fantastic legal professionals.

This month we shine the spotlight on Kimberley Osborne, New Build Conveyancing Solicitor, at our Stevenage Barnes and Partners Solicitors office.

Kim has a real passion for the law and helping people, which is obvious from how she operates in her daily role.

This is Kim’s story in her own words:

From a young age the police/legal arena inspired me and this influence came from my parents who wanted to see me do well as an only child. I was born in Hertfordshire but grew-up in Manchester before I then moved back, to attend the University of Hertfordshire, where I studied for both my law degree and postgraduate diploma in legal practice (LPC). In my LPC I graduated with a distinction and then I knew I had what it took to be qualified!

I embarked upon a series of interviews with various firms and secured a training contract with a family run firm in Potters Bar Wason Lawrance Holder Solicitors. I loved my time there and I was treated as part of the family – I went from paralegal, trainee solicitor to qualified solicitor in my four years with the firm. After one year being qualified I felt it was time to move on and accept new challenges. I interviewed and was recruited for the job at Barnes and Partners.

A day in the life of me is a very varied. Dealing with emails, taking calls and meetings with my clients. I specialise in residential conveyancing new build acquisitions and some landlord and tenant advice. I can be doing anything from dealing with large scales of completions, once thirty in a day, to many exchanges of contracts. At the heart of everything I do is acting in my clients’ best interests – being the friendly, approachable and a reassuring voice at the end of the phone. I have seen the stresses and strains moving home can bring and I just want to make that process as easy as I can for my clients.

I love being a solicitor and I bring that passion to the table everyday. I love to help motivate my colleagues by making them laugh and I really enjoy the team spirit in our Stevenage office. I feel my colleagues at Stevenage are my work family. I would be lost without them; our latest recruit, my assistant Rebecca, has settled in seamlessly too and now she is such a support, as is everyone else.

It perhaps helps we have the perfect location working next door to a Wetherspoons and a Cinnabar as sometimes Friday after work drinks bring us all together too. An espresso martini is something I look forward to at the end of a busy week.

Espresso Martini

In terms of my home life, I live in Codicote – a little village near Stevenage.

My hobbies are pink, nails, hair and makeup. I’m a real girlie-girl, bows factor always in my outfit which stems from my childhood my great grandmother would always tie ribbons in my hair so I wasn’t mistaken for a boy as my hair didn’t grow until I was older. Since then I haven’t felt ready for my day without my bow or glittery hair clip. I like to dispel the myth that a solicitor has to look a certain way, and amongst my friends I am known as legally brunette!

Kim Osborne New Build BPS


Many thanks to Kim for sharing this with us. Her colleagues say: “from day one she has been nothing but helpful and always smiling”and “she is always teaching me new things and nothing is ever too much trouble.”Kim has a reputation for exceptional service and we are proud to say she has achieved completions for purchasers of new builds within extremely tight timeframes.


Want to ask Kim a question about new builds? Call on 0208 370 2800