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Work dress inquiry reveals '1850s attitudes' to dress codes for women

07 March 2017

A government inquiry into work dress codes has heard a number of witness statements revealing widespread discrimination against women.

Prompted by the petition from Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from her receptionist role after refusing to wear high heeled shoes, MPs expressed shock at the level of discrimination.

Petitions Committee chair Helen Jones said: "We found attitudes that belonged more - I was going to say 1950s but probably the 1850s might be more accurate - than the 21st century."

She further stated that in addition to exposing widespread discrimination, the inquiry had exposed "stereotypical views of what women should look like and dress like and behave like".

Instances of women being "belittled when they try to challenge" out-dated attitudes had also been heard, Ms Jones said.

The committee found that the current law had not proved "fully effective in protecting employees from discrimination at work".

As a result, it had called on the government to review and make any necessary changes to the law to make improvements.

A further recommendation was for penalties for employers be increased substantially when they are found to be at fault by employment tribunals.

Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage has written to trade bodies and urged employers to review dress codes and remove sexist employment practices.

Improved application of the Equality Act 2010 has previously been recommended by MPs to address these issues.

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