Office attire can cause many debates – why do women have to wear high heels, do women have to wear high heels? Why is air conditioning sexist? Why do men have to wear suits even in hot weather?
Office etiquette can be a bit of a grey area, especially for women – are certain sartorial choices inappropriate, for example not wearing a bra?
That was the question raised by one woman on Netmums who’d enquired about whether going braless could result in getting in trouble at work.
‘In 2018, would I get in bother if I didn’t wear a bra to work?’ she wrote.
‘I just find them uncomfortable and I think everyone is well aware that people have nipples, and I am not doing this for attention. I just feel I shouldn’t have be forced to wear something.
‘Who cares if some nipples are in the centre pointing down a bit to the left, its 2018, I shouldn’t have to wear something because it will make people feel less uncomfortable/ stop men looking or just because it’s the norm.
‘Does anyone else agree? or am I a hippy that wishes to burn all bras?’
She was met with mixed responses, some said it would be inappropriate while others said it might be awkward if one were to go into work with their nipples showing through their clothes, regardless of gender.
So, what does the law say about workplace clothing?
According to Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), which provides advice to employers and employees on aspects of employment law, employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy.
Such employers will need to have health and safety reasons for having certain standards. The law stipulates that dress codes must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements.
And reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when dress codes are in place.
The Equality Act 2010 also states that an employer has the right to distinguish between a male and female dress code as long as they are not deemed to be treating one sex more or less favourably.
Though legally you aren’t supposed to have one set of (unfair) rules for one gender over the other, it hasn’t stopped employers from enforcing certain rules on their staff.
One woman, Nicola Thrope was famously sent home when she refused to wear high heels at the request of her workplace, accounting firm PWC. But she lost the landmark case.
The issue was further highlighted in an enquiry by MPs on the women and equalities select committee who made a case for women in certain professions that are required to wear makeup (i.e flight attendants) or heels when they are expected to move heavy equipment, climb ladders, walk long distances, and carry food and drink.
The topic has divided many people’s opinions, with some women asking why a plunging neckline or high cleavage top might be acceptable but someone whose nipples protrude through their top because they’ve gone braless isn’t.
What are your thoughts?