Kim Hayton, HR Director at FDR Law looks at workplace clothing
Q: Can an employer dictate what we wear at work?
A: An organisation may have a dress code appropriate to the job roles it has, for example:
- Uniforms – communicate a corporate image that will be easily recognisable by customers
- Health and Safety – medical professionals working directly with patients are usually not allowed to wear jewellery for safety reasons. In factories there will be guidelines on clothing when operating machinery, and kitchen based workers will be required to cover their hair for hygiene reasons.
- Business Attire – this phrase is often used when there are no specific requirements but the organisation is looking for their employees to maintain a reasonable standard of appearance in the workplace. This may be required for employees with a customer facing role. The dress code should be non-discriminatory and apply to both men and women equally, however standards can be different and the policy may include ‘business dress’ for women but may state that men ‘must wear a tie’.
Employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy and reasonable adjustments must be made for employees with a disability or those with religious beliefs.
There may also be times when the dress code can be relaxed i.e. for charity days when staff want to wear a Christmas jumper or jeans, these should be agreed in advance and should not impact on any health and safety regulations.
If you are looking to introduce a dress policy or update an existing policy, it is advised that you consult with employees to ensure it is appropriate, reasonable and acceptable before it is enforced. The policy should also state the consequences of not following the Dress Code i.e. may result in a disciplinary hearing.