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Dress Code In The Workplace

Dress Code in the Workplace

Different employers have different rules on what their employees can wear to work. This is usually for safety purposes but sometimes so that workers look professional if they are communicating with customers or external clients. If you dictate to staff what they can and cannot wear it is important that you do so legally and without discriminating against anybody.

The dress code ultimately lies with the employer. Some employers may feel that a smart dress code is an effective way of motivating employees and creating a serious, formal environment that encourages them to work.

Once an employer has chosen a dress code they should put it into a guide -maybe as part of an induction guide- so that everything is made completely clear to your employees. Employers should also include reasons for each of their requirements; this might be something as simple as for health and safety or for a professional image.

If you are an employer who is considering introducing a dress code then it is important that your new instructions do not discriminate against employees on religious or gender grounds.

For requirements to be legal you do not need to apply identical rules to both men and women. For example men may be required to have short, neat hair whereas women can keep their hair long, even if it does not have any relation to health and safety.

Equality here is measured in terms of standards – is their standard of smartness equal? For example you could not allow men to wear tracksuits while insisting that women wear business suits, but you could insist that men wear ties whereas women can wear open-necked smart dresses.

As long as they are both expected to dress to the same level of formality there is no discrimination taking place, even if it is acceptable for one sex to wear a particular type of clothing and not the other.

If an employee is undergoing or has completed gender reassignment then they should dress according to the rules regarding their new gender.

There are certain professional environments where more detailed dress codes are required. On a building site or in hospital - or any situation where health and safety are major components of the employment -rules regarding headgear, jewellery, and tattoos might be more important.

When does a dress code lead to religious discrimination? If a code effects one particular religious group more than other then it is likely to be considered discriminatory. If an employee requests an alteration to dress code to suit their religious practices, the employer must modify the code or allow an exception unless doing so “results in undue hardship”.

If an employer is concerned about the way an employee is dressed then they need to have a discussion with the employee in private. If an employee continues to ignore the set dress code - despite warnings - then the employer can legitimately end their employment.

If you would like more information about dress codes in the workplace, or if you think that you may have been a victim of discrimination, contact Lanshaws for competitively-prices legal advice from our experts.