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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

08 SEP 2014

Work Dress Code

Pam Loch

Managing Partner


There are many reasons why an employer may have a work dress code. Promotion of a professional and positive image, hygiene reasons in the medical profession or for health and safety reasons where loose or certain types of clothing could be a hazard are just some.

We might take the way we dress for work for granted but it can impact on the workplace atmosphere, how individuals relate to one another and even on an employer’s business. While working for an employer, an employee represents the organisation and their appearance may contribute to the reputation and business development. Some employers have found that by relaxing the formal requirement for business attire, relaxed professionalism can result too. Therefore, there are many good reasons to have a dress code policy.

What Should the Policy Say?

Employers may have a policy setting out their requirements in relation to the standard of dress and they may also want an employee to cover up tattoos or remove piercings while at work. However, an employer must consider equality and diversity issues. For example they should consider accommodating clothing or jewellery worn by an individual signifying their religious beliefs. Ideally any policy should be part of employee’s induction programme so they know what is expected.

When implementing or updating a dress code policy, employers should consider the reasons behind it and its relevance to the job role. Whatever the reason to adopt a dress code, an employer must:

•Avoid unlawful discrimination;

•Apply the dress code equally to both men and women allowing flexibility for different requirements, such as men must wear a tie;

•Make reasonable adjustments for disabled people when dress codes are implemented.

Particular care is required when covering religious dress in a policy. Employers need to be aware that this is an area where they should allow employees to wear items of clothing that signify their belief. Any restrictions on articles of religious belief must be justified by the employer, for example for health and safety reasons and should be clearly set out in their policy.

Employers should consider working with their employees to see how they can show their faith in a way that does not conflict with the employer’s requirements.

It is good practice to review a dress code policy to ensure it reflects appropriate standards and continues to meet the organisation’s needs.
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