Firms must be wary of beauty bias

Employers
are increasingly putting beauty before brains, according to a report by the
Industrial Society.

Looking
good, sounding right: style counselling in the new economy reveals the emerging
trend for employers to choose staff for their self-presentation rather than
skills.

Authors
Chris Warhurst and Dennis Nickson say the Government must address the issue or
risk the creation of an underclass who do not meet the aesthetic standards of
employers.

They
say the rise in “aesthetic labour”, particularly in the service sector,
increases the potential for discrimination, creating the need for training
initiatives to address the issue.

The
report highlights a number of cases where employers have discriminated against
staff, including a male off-shore oil worker dismissed for being too fat, a
pregnant sales assistant sacked for becoming “too fat and ugly” and a
supermarket check-out girl sent home to shave her legs so she did not “put
customers off”.

Director
of futures at the Industrial Society, Richard Reeves, said, “We Brits are
traditionally squeamish about admitting that how you look, dress, talk – or
even smell – might be as important as your GCSE results.

“As
the economy shifts towards ‘high touch’ jobs, the premium on presentation is
rising. Employers need to tread carefully. Aesthetic labour should be about
great service, not great teeth.”

www.indsoc.co.uk

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