Client Newsletter 2017
Happy New Year to everyone.
I hope that this is a positive year and you achieve all the goals you set for yourself.
In this addition of the newsletter we are going to discuss the High Heels debate, Gina Miller, Brexit EU law and its potential impacts EU citizens.
1. High Heels Debate
I remember when I was a student, I worked in the retail industry for what was a prestigious store at the time. Make up, neat hair and high heels were the norm! I am grateful we were not asked to wear sexy blouses or short skirts. It did not bother me the dress code. However I have grown up and changed and rushed to sign the petition of Nicola Thorp
Recently the issue of young women wearing high heels is back in the news because 138,500 people, predominantly women signed the petition calling for the banning of high heels in the work place.
The report on High heels and work place dress code looked at the issue of high heels in the work place and in particular the industries where high heels are often required: hospitality, corporate, tourism and agency services. More often than not, it was young women who were expected to wear high heels.
Women were usually asked to wear makeup, dye their hair blond, tight revealing clothes and short skirts.
The interesting aspect of the report was that when John Bowers QC[i] was asked about the legitimacy of the practise; it was not clear cut that if a woman took the issue of being forced to wear high heels to court she would win the claim.
We are all aware that employers are not allowed to discriminate against the genders in the work place. Sex discrimination (like race, age, disability for example) is one of the protected[ii] characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Direct discrimination[iii] occurs when A treats B because of a protected characteristic, less favourably in the work place. High heels however is not caught by the direct discrimination legislation because work a place dress code policy document is usually applicable to both sexes. If high heels are to be found in the dress code policy and effects one group (women), it will be regarded as indirect discrimination[iv] under the law.
Indirect discrimination can in law be justified if it is reasonably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and it is here that it is believed that the law falls down and does not help women. The tribunal costs just to issue a case is in the region of £1,200 and this too is clearly a deterrent for some women.
The committee found the current law did little to protect women from gender discrimination in the work place. The committee has asked for the government to review the law and to increase the penalties that tribunals can make and award against employers. The current penalties do not to stop employers breaking the law.
High heels worn for a long period of time is bad for women’s health as highlighted by the report at pages 8-13.
Wearing high heels at work also gives rise to health and safety considerations! A good employer should do a proper risk assessment.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require an employer to (1) conduct a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to the health and safety of persons at work[v]; and (2) to set out a hierarchy of risks in the workplace. This risk assessment duty builds on the general duty on employers under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to provide a safe working environment.
In my business newsletter I have asked employers to consider reviewing and thereafter to re-writing the work dress code policy documents and to remove where possible any gender bias.
By July 2017 there may be new guidelines issued on this matter as the Governments Equality office, ACAS and the Health and Safety Executive have been asked to prepare new guidelines and the Minister for Women and Equality has been asked to ensure that it gets done!
2. Gina Miller
The recent Brexit decision was won by Ms Gina Miller and her team. However she has faced a lot of online abuse: racism, sexism, rape threats, death threats including being attacked because she was born in Guyana. All done because Mrs Miller exercised her rights as a British Citizen to challenge the government. The experience of Mrs Miller online is simply extraordinary to be honest. Naturally it is inappropriate behaviour and I am ashamed to write the next few lines: online bullying against women is really on the rise.
What’s even worse was is that there are two Gina Millers online. One is a US sports journalist and the other well the business woman; both have been abused and the US journalist wrote about her experience.
I am going to explain the simple steps you can take to try and protect yourself from such bullying and harassment online.
a. Where possible block the person from your social media
b. Change your privacy settings.
c. Try your best not to give you data to third parties online: twitter, Facebook, Instagram, snapchat. Everyone wants your data. Your data has value. I have told friends off on my own Facebook page. Do not give Facebook all your information.
d. Think twice about where you post pictures of your children and yourself as I have read people for example like to steal children’s pictures online and using it elsewhere in the world.
e. Do not communicate with the offender who is bullying or harassing you. I recently had a few swear words sent my way on twitter. I did not respond. Thankfully it stopped.
f. Collect as much evidence as possible of the activities of any offensive troll and print off hard copies to use to refer the matter to the police. The police may refer the matter to the CPS who will assess whether or not they have sufficient evidence to prosecute. In the Gina Miller case, it is my understanding that some people have been arrested for their offensive communication. The police have also issued a ceased and desist letter to another for harassing communication. The CPS will prosecute if provided with sufficient information regarding racially aggravated communication.
g. Stay safe online and organisations such as the Open University have free courses to help you stay safe. Take a course, it is worth doing!
3. Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination
I have always highlighted how this is wide spread and discussed it in previous newsletters. Most employers in England are just terrible when it comes to women who are pregnant and/ or on maternity leave.
The good news is that the government is considering improving the rights of women by extending the protection on offer to such women if they are to be made redundant by their employers. Whilst this may be more onerous and add to the costs of employers; it will be definitely be beneficial to the women who find themselves heavily discriminated against because they have had a child. So look at for the changes.
[i] a leading employment lawyer
[ii] S11 Equality Act 2010
[iii] S13 Equality Act 2010
[iv] S19 Equality Act 2010
[v] To include those not in his employment that may enter his premise