INSIGHT: Checklist: dress codes in the workplace
Employers often require dress codes in the workplace for a number of reasons: staff may be asked to wear a uniform to communicate a corporate image and ensure that customers can easily identify them; or there may be health and safety reasons. For example, health care workers may not be allowed to wear jewellery when around patients and certain clothing may not be allowed in factories while operating machinery. However, dress codes must be reasonable and suitable for the circumstances and employers must be careful to avoid discrimination or they could face employment claims.
Fashions and the notions of what is acceptable in the workplace have changed quite dramatically in the last 10 years or so. If you are an employer and have not reviewed your workplace dress code in a while, now might the time to do so.
Checklist: dress codes in the workplace
- Appropriate dress: Employers can make sure workers are safe and dressed appropriately via a dress code. It should, however, relate to the job and be reasonable in nature, for example workers may be required to tie their hair back or cover it for hygiene reasons if working in a kitchen.
- No unlawful discrimination: employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy.
- Health & safety reasons: employers may have health and safety reasons for having certain standards.
- Gender equality: dress codes must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements.
- No disability discrimination: reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when dress codes are in place.
- Dress code policies: employers may have a policy that sets out a reasonable standard of dress and appearance for their organisation but should ensure that any dress code is non-discriminatory and applies to both men and women equally. Standards can be different for example a policy may state "business dress" for women but may state for men "must wear a tie".
- Piercings and tattoos: An employer may require staff to remove body piercings if there is a risk of the piercing giving rise to a potential breach of the employer's health and safety policy. (On tattoos, see "Why you May Be Missing Out on Talent If You Stigmatise Tattoos" /blog/news/why-you-may-be-missing-out-on-talent-if-you-stigmatise-tattoos
- Religious discrimination: religious dress is also an area to consider for employers: groups or individuals should be allowed to wear items of clothing that correspond to their faith. Any restrictions in these areas must be for safety reasons.
- Casual dress: while the summer months are often a time when more casual dress is adopted, many employers may require staff to wear business dress all year round. For example, sales representatives meeting clients may need to maintain a certain standard of dress. Employers may have a "no flip flop" policy as a health and safety precaution, but any restrictions should be clearly set out in the organisation's policy.
- Dress code policies: it is good practice when drafting or updating a dress code for an employer to consider the reasoning behind it. Consulting with employees over any proposed dress code may ensure that the code is acceptable to both the organisation and employees. Once agreed it should be communicated to all employees properly.
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