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Dress Codes

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The EAT (HHJ Peter Clark) has handed down its decision in Dansie v Metropolitan Police, which is authority for the proposition that requiring a male employee to cut his shoulder-length hair did not amount to discrimination or harassment under the SDA simply because a female employee would not, in similar circumstances, have been required to cut her hair, provided that the overall Dress Code was equally balanced between the sexes.

In upholding the Tribunal's decision, the EAT confirmed that the correct legal test is whether, applying contemporary standards and conventions, as well as the specific needs of the profession in question, the employer's dress code as a whole was asking its employees to display an equivalent level of smartness as between the sexes: as per Smith v Safeway Plc [1996] ICR 868 and DWP v Thompson [2004] IRLR 348. Accordingly, as the Dress Code of the Metropolitan Police was, overall, equally balanced between the sexes, they had not discriminated against Mr. Dansie, a trainee, by requiring him to cut his hair.

The EAT was satisfied that the Tribunal had been entitled to find on the evidence that a female recruit who failed to comply with the gender neutral dress/appearance code necessary for the service would have been treated in the same way.

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