A new study has revealed that one in four British women have been warned about their appearance in the workplace,compared to just one in nine men. Alarmingly, a third of women pulled up on their appearance at work were deemed ‘a distraction’ to their male colleagues.

Wearing too much makeup and not being clean or neatly shaven are the top reasons that Britons get called out by their managers at work for their appearance – with women being called out more often than men.

The research was carried out by Voucher Codes Pro as part of an ongoing study into British expenses on their appearance. 2,384 Britons aged 18 and over, all of whom stated that they were in full-time employment, were quizzed about their appearance and how it differed at home and in the workplace. There were an equal number of male and female respondents.

Initially, all respondents were asked ‘What’s the dress code in your workplace?’ to which the top responses were ‘formal’ (34 per cent), ‘a set uniform’ (29 per cent) and ‘smart casual’ (27 per cent). All respondents were then asked if they had ever been spoken to by management about their appearance, to which one quarter of the female respondents said they had been, compared to just nine per cent of British men.

All female respondents were asked why they had been pulled up by their management on their appearance. When provided with a list of possible reasons why and told to select all that applied, 46 per cent said wearing too much make up, 35 per cent said wearing a skirt that is too short, 30 per cent said wearing a top that was deemed too revealing and 15 per cent said being ‘over the top’ or flamboyant with outfit choice.

A third of female respondents called up on their appearance (35 per cent) stated that a key part of them being spoken to was because they were deemed ‘a distraction’ to their male counterparts.

Similarly, all male respondents were asked to state why they’d been pulled up on their appearance by management.

56 per cent said not being clean or neatly shaven, 34 per cent said incorrect footwear i.e trainers instead of shoes, 32 per cent wearing shorts instead of trousers and 19 per cent said being ‘over the top’ or flamboyant with outfit choice.

All respondents were then asked how they’d been left feeling after being pulled up on their appearance. Female respondents admitted that they were left feeling ‘embarrassed’ (33 per cent), ‘angry’ (30 per cent) and ‘singled out’ (25 per cent), whereas the majority of male respondents admitted that they ‘shrugged it off’ (72 per cent).

According to the poll, almost three quarters of female respondents (73 per cent) called out on their appearance admitted that they adhered to the warnings and made changes to their appearance, whereas just 44 per cent of male respondents did the same.

George Charles, spokesperson for Voucher Codes Pro, commented on the findings:

“It’s OK to pull up a member of your staff on their appearance if you genuinely believe that they’re breaking their contract in anyway, or even if it poses some sort of health & safety risk, but you just can’t tell women to change their appearance because they’re possibly going to be distracting to their male colleagues. That’s outrageous.

“It’s definitely interesting that women felt singled out, angry and embarrassed, and went on to make changes to their appearance so as not to be called out again, yet most men didn’t care too much about the warning they received and didn’t make changes anyway. It’s definitely food for thought, but it can’t be one rule for one and another for someone else; be consistent.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.