An employment tribunal ruling has dismissed claims brought forward by a nursery worker who was reprimanded for wearing a figure-hugging dress, being told it was “unprofessional” to have that amount of cleavage visible.
Ms. Lawrence, a worker at a nursery, had her claims dismissed by an employment tribunal after stating she received unfavourable treatment from her line manager and owner of the nursery.
Ms. Lawrence was employed by Bundles of Joy Nursery in Streatham in August 2018, working in the pre-school room.
As part of their uniform, staff were expected to wear a pink polo shirt, black trousers and flat shoes and could purchase the uniform polo shirt from their line manager.
However, after her job began, Ms. Lawrence was not provided with the uniform polo shirt as there were not any left in her size.
As such, the claimant wore her own dress, a “basic stretchy black dress” in her own words.
However, on analysis, the employment tribunal noted that the dress was “figure hugging” with a “scoop neck”, meaning that “a significant amount of cleavage would be visible” at times.
After a visit from an early years specialist employed by the local council, Mrs. Ahmed, Ms. Lawrence’s line manager and owner of the nursery, was encouraged to have a word with her employee about the amount of cleavage that was on show.
The early years specialist deemed Ms. Lawrence’s attire “unprofessional” and warned that it could potentially cause offence.
Following this, Mrs. Ahmed conducted a meeting with Ms. Lawrence where she repeated those words, telling Ms. Lawrence that the dress was too low cut, unprofessional and could cause offence.
Two days later, Ms. Lawrence raised a grievance about the comments and, in the claimant’s view, was given less working hours as a result. However, this was dismissed by the employment tribunal who concurred she was not given less hours.
This matter was ultimately discussed in another grievance meeting and Ms. Lawrence eventually resigned in May 2019.
According to the ruling of the employment tribunal, the complaint of direct sex discrimination failed due to the fact that the dress code itself was not discriminatory between women and men.
The ruling determined that the “actual uniform was gender neutral and … the Respondent would have applied the same standard to departures from the actual uniform (when employees wear their own clothes) whether dealing with a man or a woman”.
It added that ultimately “the standard was to dress conservatively and without exposing bodily flesh that would be inconsistent with conservative dress”.
Judge Dyal added that whilst he had “some sympathy” for the claimant, the conduct did not have any sexual nature and was “about dressing more modestly”.