Dress code and appearance at work

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Written by: Alcumus
29th September

It sets out the issues for employers to consider, rather than providing answers however it is a timely reminder of the key areas if you are implementing or revising your existing dress code policy.

Dress codes are used in the workplace for a variety of reasons, for example you may have a policy for employees to wear a uniform to communicate a professional image and ensure that customers can easily identify your workers.  Often an employer will introduce a dress code for health and safety reasons such as health care workers who may not be allowed to wear jewellery for safety reasons or kitchen staff for hygiene reasons and there can be strict rules which apply to those who work with machinery in factories and production areas.

The key points to consider are as follows:

  • You must avoid unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy
  • You may have health and safety reasons for having certain standards
  • Dress codes must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements
  • Reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when the dress codes are in place.

A dress code should always relate to the job and be reasonable in nature.

You should set out a reasonable standard of dress and appearance to suit the specific needs of your business.  Any dress code should be non-discriminatory and should apply to both men and women equally, but standards can be different for example a policy may state “business dress” for women but may state that men “must wear a tie”.

You may wish to promote a certain image through your workers and this can sometimes mean asking employees to remove piercings or cover tattoos whilst at work.  You may believe that you have reasonable business reasons for this especially when employees are dealing with customers.  If you decide to implement this rule it is advisable to have it written down in the contract of employment.  It should be communicated to all staff so they understand what standards are expected and that a failure to comply with the standards may result in disciplinary action.

You should tread cautiously with regard to the issues surrounding religious dress as you should, wherever possible, allow groups or individuals to wear articles of clothing etc. that manifest their religious faith. You would need to justify the reasons for banning such items and ensure that you are not indirectly discriminating against these employees.  Any restriction should be related to a genuine business reason or safety requirement. In many cases the display of religious faith may be subtle and fit well with the business or professional dress.

If you have any queries about the image you want to convey or the impact of health and safety requirements, please do not hesitate to speak to your HR Consultancy team about any dress codes or issues surrounding appearance at work.

Richard Denton, HR Consultant, Alcumus