Editor's message: Race is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits direct and indirect race discrimination, victimisation and harassment. Under the Act, race means colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins.
Dress codes at work often prompt discussion about the risk of race discrimination as certain ethnic groups are subject to strict cultural requirements. If your organisation insists on dress rules that contradict the cultural conventions of such groups, you may be discriminating indirectly against those employees, and should tread carefully.
Indirect race discrimination, as with any other type of indirect discrimination, can be justified if you can show that the application of the provision, criterion or practice creating the indirect discrimination (in this context, the dress rules) is a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim.
Ellie Gelder, employment law editor
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Updated to include information on the language requirements for public-sector workers in customer-facing roles, which came into effect on 21 November 2016.
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Updated to include a reference to illegal working closure notices and compliance orders, introduced from 1 December 2016.
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HR and legal information and guidance relating to race discrimination.