A “fight for the right” to wear glasses at work

November 12, 2019


Several controversial practices have made it into the headlines regarding Japan’s work dress codes, most recently the report that some firms no longer allow their female workers to wear their glasses at work.

The eyewear has been banned for a number of reasons, including health and safety for air-line workers and the “cold impression” received by customers from shop assistants.

This is not the first time the issue of female dress code has sparked a heated debate in Japan. Earlier this year, a petition was launched calling for Japan to end its outdated and oppressive dress codes against women after Yumi Ishikawa, an actor and writer, was forced to wear high heels when working at a funeral parlour. Approximately 19,000 people signed the petition, but the practice is still widely defended by many Japanese firms as “socially accepted” and “occupationally necessary and appropriate”.

UK dress code practices are not free from controversy either. In 2015, a receptionist arrived to work wearing flat shoes and was sent home for failing to comply with the dress code which required women to wear high heels of between two and four inches.

Following this incident, the House of Commons Petitions Committee and the Women and Equality Committee published a report on dress codes in the workplace. It concluded that requiring female workers to wear high heels is damaging to their health and well-being and could be considered unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

When it comes to their dress code, employers will want to consider industry expectations along with other factors such as health and safety hazards and the level of contact workers have with customers. However, employers should ensure that they take a balanced approach between the requirements of the business and potentially unlawful practices.

Top tips for employers when implementing a dress code at work:

  1. Make sure that you have a written dress code policy in place setting out your rules and guidelines in relation to work appropriate dress wear.

  2. Keep potential issues of discrimination in mind when devising your dress code. You should consider possible religious sensitivities, health and safety issues in relation to disabled employees, and that whilst rules in relation to men and women do not need to be identical, they should not be stricter for one group than another.

  3. Train your staff on your dress code policy. This should help you avoid any confusion regarding the rules and avoid potentially having to take disciplinary action against a worker wearing inappropriate dress wear.



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