I've worked in my catering job for 11 years. We were tuped over to our present employer 5 years ago. We wear a uniform of trousers (provided by ourselves), polo shirt and apron provided by them for our contract hours. If we do hospitality work (overtime) we wear black trousers, white shirt (provided by ourselves), tie and apron provided by company.

Today we have been told the company is completely rebranding so the manager is picking our uniform, shirt and apron provided for contracted hours and we have to provide trousers. For hospitality work, the manager has picked skirt, waistcoat and scarf provided by company. I asked if there was a trouser alternative as I have never worn a skirt in this job and would prefer trousers. Answer is no. So I will miss out on overtime work as I don't want to wear a skirt. Is this allowed? Is it legal to insist you wear a skirt?

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    So would I be safe making the assumption that your company doesn't have any male staff member in this job position? How would a male staff member be accommodated? Surely they don't only hire females for this position - that would seem like unfair discrimination ...
    – brhans
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 21:17
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    Where are you located? We can't give legal advice but we can point you to relevant "employee advice" pages for your location. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 21:55
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    The reference to TUPE ("tuped over") makes me think UK, but it would be better if @suzie can confirm. (definition of TUPE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 22:55
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    We are a independent school in the UK only men employed are chefs so they are getting chefs whites .we are a group of females who have worked there for a number of years average age 45 .sizes from 6 to 24 Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 5:29
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    Could you wear pants under the skirt? :) Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 7:51

3 Answers 3


So I will miss out on overtime work as I don't want to wear a skirt

Yes, unless your boss has a change of heart. It's company uniform, if you want to work there you really need to wear the uniform. You have asked and been denied, it's now up to you. Unless there is something in your contract stating a set amount of overtime you don't really have any leverage, and even then it's reasonable to expect/enforce employees to observe the dress code.

  • Even if its a new dress code ? Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 21:11
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    @suzie - unfortunately, any employer can change the terms of employment, including uniform requirements, at almost any time (as long as they are not illegal or unduly onerous), even in the UK and EU, and your options are to agree or to leave (depending on local laws, you might get some severance). If you are in a union, you might be able to get them to represent you for negotiating the new terms.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 0:58
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    @HorusKol: But also consider that "manager" is not the same as "employer". It is quite possible that the manager wants this change, while the employer (the company) doesn't actually care.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:24

Yes they can, as long as they also force male employees to wear a similar suitable dress for the work (E.g. Smart trousers). In the UK, there has been several cases and one such example can be found here.

The key part from that article is:

provided that the employer applies a comparable or equivalent standard of smartness and conventionality across the sexes, the employer should not be held to have directly discriminated on the grounds of sex by enforcing different requirements for men and women

If you feel they are not applying the standard across different sexes, then you could have a case, but you'd need to discuss that with a lawyer or another suitable representative. You'd have to prove that you are being treated differently than other people, and that could be difficult.

Here is another example case:


First I'd check how strong the decision of the manager is. If he or she had to decide between trousers and skirts and threw a coin to make the decision, then the decision could possibly be changed without problems. The other thing to check is preferences of other employees. If 19 out of 20 prefer trousers, that's a much better reason to change the decision than if you are the only one who wants trousers.

If your colleagues are equally opposed to wearing skirts, you can come up with reasonable arguments why skirts or the whole uniform are unpractical, and if that doesn't convince your manager, then go directly to that manager's boss.

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