Should ugly people have rights at work?

Research has shown that employers are more likely to hire people they find attractive than those with the best skills and qualifications. Is this allowed?

Last Updated: 18 Dec 2014

Moreover, employees regarded as ugly are more likely to be abused and bullied by colleagues. Does this mean 'lookism' at work should be outlawed? Behaviour of this type might sometimes breach existing anti-discrimination legislation.

Mistreatment of a bald person could be on grounds of age or sex, for instance, and severely disfigured or obese workers might well be treated as disabled for equality law purposes. Introducing broader protection for 'personal appearance' would be problematic. In the fashion world, for example, how far would businesses be permitted to create a particular 'face' for their brand?

One can see how advertising agencies should be able to discriminate in favour of Kate Moss et al when casting a campaign, but what about airlines recruiting cabin staff?

There is arguably too much scope at present for lawful bias against unattractive employees and job candidates where their looks are essentially irrelevant. Many would find that pretty unsatisfactory.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email:

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