It is known to many that the majority of airline attendants have uniform standards to maintain, such as regularly wearing makeup and dressing in a specified uniform. This is considered by many to highlight the extent that the aviation industry continues to play into outdated gender stereotypes.
Virgin Atlantic hit the headlines recently in respect of their proposed uniform changes and it is important to consider the legal implications surrounding the same.
It is understood that Virgin Atlantic is no longer requiring female flight attendants to wear makeup, and for the first time they will be offering trousers as a uniform option. Prior to this, Virgin Atlantic were known for having a strict uniform policy, and a style guide for flight attendants that included instructions on what types of makeup they were and were not allowed to wear, with female attendants only provided with trousers for uniform upon their request.
It has been reported that Virgin Atlantic have referred to the uniform change as a “significant change for the aviation industry” which could be a sign of a wider change.
An individual can be discriminated against if they can show that they have suffered unfavourable or less favourable treatment, and have been put to a detriment, as a result of a protected characteristic. The protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act 2010 include:
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Gender reassignment
- Religion or belief
Sex discrimination is defined as being treated unfairly due to their gender. Such discrimination can take place by way of unpleasant comments and/or inappropriate physical conduct towards individuals which is considered by a tribunal or court would not have taken place had the individual been a member of the opposite sex.
Such conduct can be considered by the tribunals and the courts as harassment if it is believed that the behaviour has had the effect of violating the individual’s dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
Female flight attendants being required to wear make up by Virgin and other airlines has in the past been alleged by some to potentially be viewed as sex discrimination because the same criteria does not apply to men. If you feel you have been discriminated against as a result of a protected characteristic, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, however there are strict time limits within which courts will accept such claims. Please contact our specialist employment and discrimination team for further advice on 01616 966 229.
By Laura Ogden, employment and discrimination advisor