PIT GIRLS Emma O’Leary, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, offers comment on the F1 pit girls story: “A model who lost her job following the PDC decision to axe walk-on girls, says that this job made up 60% of her earnings and she had no problem doing it. Fair enough? Or is this an outdated sexist practice that has no place in the current climate? “It’s not just that the walk on girls, or pit girls in F1, must be female, but there is a requirement to be attractive. It’s not strictly unlawful to put such a requirement in a job advert but there are considerations that companies should take before doing so. Firstly, attractiveness is highly subjective and having this as a job requirement makes it very difficult to justify your recruitment decisions. This means that a company will find it very hard to justify rejecting someone with a protected characteristic thereby leaving them open to a discrimination claim. “If someone with a physical disability applied for the role, you could not automatically reject their application by saying that the disability caused that individual to not be attractive enough. They would have to be considered for the role on merit alone.
“Aside from that in employment law terms, employers can request an applicant be female if there is a genuine occupational requirement – such as for the personal care of a female patient. It’s difficult to see what the requirement here would be. While traditionally these ‘glamorous’ roles have been filled by women – they are after all known as pit girls and walk on girls – should a man apply for the job then equal consideration would have to be given. “With all that being said, if someone really wants a certain job and is happy to do it, should we be banning them? “Women’s rights means that women have the right to choose as well as the right to be treated equally. If women choose to work in these roles, nobody is being exploited and all reasonable steps are being taken to prevent harassment then is it our place to ban these jobs just because we wouldn’t choose to do them? That could be the start of a very slippery slope....” “Women’s rights means that women have the right to choose as well as the right to be treated equally"
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