Award of £3000 for CERT trainee required to wear skirt

AWARD OF £3,000 FOR CERT TRAINEE REQUIRED TO WEAR A SKIRT. POSSIBLE IMPLICATION FOR SCHOOL UNIFORMS.

A former trainee receptionist has been awarded £3,000 after an Equality Officer found that she had been discriminated against by CERT for insisting that it’s standard female uniform be worn at interview.

Ms. Mary Keane, the former trainee in question was represented by the Equality Authority in pursuing her case under the Employment Equality Act, 1998 on the grounds of Gender.

Ms. Keane claimed that the female uniform she was obliged to wear was demeaning and had overtones of subservience. It was, she said, a constant source of teasing from male trainees and some trainers, with the apron being singled out as a topic of amusement.

At that time all CERT female trainee receptionists were obliged to wear a knee length buttoned black dress with a white collar, white apron and short sleeves. The male trainee receptionists wore trousers, long sleeved white shirt, bow tie and waistcoat. However, trainee chefs wore a unisex uniform which included trousers. Since the case was lodged CERT have now changed the trainee receptionist uniform.

CERT had insisted that trainees attending the interviews arranged on its premises must wear the standard uniforms. Despite her request to wear her own clothes Ms. Keane was not permitted to do so. She said that she missed out on job opportunities as a result.

CERT argued during the investigation that the purpose of the uniform was to related to hygiene standards.

The Equality Officer did not accept there were any objectives reasons unrelated to gender why hygiene requirements meant all female trainees other than chefs would wear dresses. The Equality Officer concluded that the uniform policy was based on a conventional view that women should wear skirts.

The Equality Officer awarded the sum of £3,000 for lost employment opportunities, distress caused by the discrimination and the stress relating to the necessity to pursue her claim. She also recommended that CERT should ensure that all of it’s policies including it’s policy in respect of uniform design, support equality of opportunity for men and women.

This decision has made it clear that discriminatory dress codes both in employment and in vocational training are unacceptable.

The Equality Authority believes the decision my have far reaching consequences for the wearing of uniforms not only in the workplace but in schools. The Equal Status Act which came into force on 25th October last specifically prohibits discrimination in Educational Establishments. The Equality Authority is of the view that the compulsory wearing of standard female uniforms consisting of skirts in schools may now be discriminatory under the new legislation.

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