Disciplinary • October 5, 2018
How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Dress Codes
Written by Jennifer Ormond
Many people think that are no risks or pitfalls when it comes to implementing a dress code in the workplace but what about discrimination, equality and health and safety?
Although it is advisable to have a dress code it should be none discriminatory on any of the protected characteristics, such as gender or religion. The dress code should apply equally to men and women, although you can for example require men to wear a tie, so long as there is an equivalent level of smartness between the genders.
This blog will give you some pointers to help try and avoid the high risk areas, however, the best way to avoid liability is to speak to us!
Employers need to approach this subject with care and should generally allow employees to wear articles of clothing that allow individuals to manifest their religious faiths. However, where an employer can objectively justify banning an item of religious importance on legitimate business or safety grounds they can do so.
Often, religious dress is subtle and may easily fit in with business or corporate dress. Employers should consider religious dress when thinking about their corporate or professional image and consider how they can work with employees to allow them to show their religious beliefs in a way that does not conflict with this image, or health and safety requirements.
A dress code should not lead to a detriment or be more strictly applied to one gender over the other. There has been a lot of press about female employees being ordered to wear heels and sometimes being sent home for refusing to do so. The government however have refused to legislate on this issue despite a petition of over 150,000 signatures. Although no cases have yet been taken to an employment tribunal on this point, employers should be able to justify the requirement and that their dress code requests the appropriate footwear for the job role.
Some employers choose to relax their dress codes during the summer months depending upon the type of business. There is no requirement to relax the dress code and often employers find it necessary to expressly state that they have a “no flip flop” policy.
Tattoos and body piercings
Many employers design dress codes to present a particular image of their company, often to reflect their business sector or ethos. This often means that individual employees who are well suited to the company are required to cover their individualism, for example tattoos and piercings. An employer does not usually discriminate against someone for requesting tattoos and piercings to be covered, but this should be clearly expressed in any policy document and periodically reviewed.
In some cases it may be appropriate to approach dress codes with a degree of flexibility. Where an employee suffers from a physical or mental impairment it could be necessary for an employer to reconsider elements of a policy to ensure that they are not suffering a detriment.
When drafting a dress code it is good practice to consider business means and the purpose of the policy. Consultation could be beneficial and ensure that any proposed policy is acceptable to both the employees and the company and takes into account requirements of all employees.
Any policy should be clearly explained to all staff, normally in the employee handbook.
A clearly worded policy can enable employers to take formal disciplinary proceedings without too much dispute from employees.
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