Pregnant Staff and Dress Codes at Work

More developments in Employment Law from Louise Taft

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Louise Taft represents employees and employers in Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination, Whistleblowing and other Employment cases.



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Risk Assessments for Pregnant Workers

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has considered when risk assessments must be carried out for pregnant workers. 3 conditions have to be satisfied:
1) the worker has notified the employer of her pregnancy in writing
2) the work is of a kind that could involve risk of harm or danger to health and safety of the expectant mother or her baby
3) the risk arises from processes, working conditions or physical, chemical or biological agents in the workplace
In reality, conditions 2 and 3 will almost always be satisfied: almost all jobs involve something that is potentially dangerous for a pregnant woman or her baby such as stress or even sitting or standing for long periods. The safest course is to risk assess in all cases where written notification of pregnancy is given.
This is especially so as the Appeal Tribunal has confirmed that failure to carry out a risk assessment where the employer is obliged to do so may amount to discrimination o
n grounds of pregnancy

Dress Codes

The Appeal Tribunal has also clarified the law on dress codes and sex discrimination. A male employee was asked to cut his shoulder-length hair to comply with the employer’s dress code. Unsurprisingly, the dress code allowed female employees to have shoulder-length hair.
The Appeal Tribunal confirmed that this was not sex discrimination. Provided a dress code is equally balanced between the sexes, it does not discriminate on grounds of sex merely because there are different expectations of men and women.
This follows previous cases, most notably when a number of male Jobcentre employees complained that they had to wear a tie but their female colleagues did not.
It’s well worth reviewing dress codes to make sure that they are “equally balanced”. This means that both men and women must have similar expectations of them, even if this means that different dress codes actually apply to them.

January 20, 2010