During a conversation recently the topic of clothes at work came up and whether it is appropriate to wear certain items of clothing at work.  A well known public sector employer who has daily contact with members of the public was discussed.  It had been observed during a hot spell of weather that the staff were dressed very casually with flip flops and strappy tops whilst dealing with members of the public.  Such attire begs the question what impression does it give of the organisation and should it be allowed.

Having a dress code in place can help set standards within an organisation. A failure to meet even minimum standards can lead to a disciplinary.

Some companies provide a uniform for their employees to wear which helps promotes corporate branding and so they can be identified by the public.  In these circumstances it’s important to have a clause in a dress code policy that requires the employee to take care of items of clothing that the employer has provided eg in relation to its maintenance and cleanliness.  Sometimes employees fail to do so and the provision of repeated sets of uniform will be costly to an employer so a policy outlining actions they will take in respect of failing to look after it, is important.

When developing a dress code an employer must consider that when it is applied it does not discriminate against anyone either directly or indirectly.  Restrictions on dress need to be justified.  For example tying hair back needs to be health and safety reasons or to promote a company’s image for smartness.  Customer facing roles could dictate specific type of clothes with a ban on jeans which would also enhance an organisations image.  A ban on head wear needs to be justified bearing in mind that certain religions require this be worn at  times.  In such instances some flexibility should be required.

A dress code policy should contain guidance to employees about suitable dress on MUFTI days and dress down Fridays so that staff do not dress inappropriately wearing, for example, offensive T shirts, low cut tops or very short skirts.

The main question to ask is whether what an employee wears will affect their ability to do their job.  A dress code should be non-contractual and contained within the employee handbook which would give some flexibility to make changes from time to time.