Is my boss allowed to…

When we need an answer to a burning question, it’s common for many of us turn to Google.

But when it comes to employment law, the public has been asking the search engine some worrying questions about exactly what powers bosses do and don’t have over their employees.

Here are some of the questions, and all the answers employers need to know.


“Is my boss allowed to… make me wear make up?”

Many employees find themselves under pressure from their company to look a certain way, whether it’s being told what to wear, how to style their hair or that they must wear makeup. Just as employers can make staff members wear a uniform, they can legally establish a dress code for employees at work.

Can they insist on high heels or make up for women? Yes, but employers must be able to justify why the code is there – e.g. helmets on building sites for safety reasons – and it is only lawful if the dress code for men could be considered to be equally strict.


“Is my boss allowed to… withhold my pay?”

Unless your contract stipulates otherwise, employers are not allowed to make deductions other than those required by law – such as National Insurance, income tax or student loan repayments – or if under instructions from a court order.

The only exceptions are if the employee agrees in writing, if they haven’t worked due to taking part in a strike, or if there’s been an earlier overpayment which needs correcting. What about tips? If they are given to the employee directly, they are considered gifts and therefore the employees to keep. However, where tips are pooled it is legal for employers to keep some of the money back, for example to make up for a till shortage.


“Is my boss allowed to… sack me?”

The situations around this one are many and varied. Worryingly, Google’s autocomplete feature highlights “for being pregnant”, “without warning” and “on the spot” as commonly searched add-ons to this question.

Employers don’t always have to give notice to dismiss staff, but must show they have a valid reason which can be justified, that they have acted reasonably, that their policies are consistent and that they have fully investigated the situation.

The Equality Act 2010 states that it is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably on the grounds of her pregnancy, or because she wants to take maternity leave.


Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson for First4Lawyers said, “One of the worst situations anyone can face in life is being unhappy in the workplace – especially when it is a result of working for an inappropriate employer.”

Being a good employer can be challenging even if you have the best intentions, with so many aspects of HR to consider.

Making sure your business has the correct Employers Liability Insurance in place can help support your status as an employer and provide vital help if an employee does bring a claim against you. Call R Collins & Co on 01977 558391 for more information.