Dress Code

Posted in : HR Updates on 10 December 2012
Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services
Issues covered:

Helen O'Brien writes:

Is the writing on the wall for scruffy employees?

With the Metropolitan Police in London banning offensive tattoos and HMV introducing a dress code, new research by YouGov for Croner, backs employers who want to smarten up their workforce. Almost half (49%) of British adults surveyed agree that it is unacceptable for front line workers to have a non-professional appearance.

Croner commissioned the research after it found an increasing number of employers were contacting its employment advisory service with questions on how to handle staff appearance issues.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, over a quarter (28%) of people surveyed said it was more acceptable for front line workers such as shop assistants and bar staff to have a less than ‘professional’ appearance than nurses and police officers (4%).
However when asked what would put them off approaching a shop assistant, the main offender was scruffy clothes (48%) and not tattoos (21%) or facial piercings (37%).

Louise Barnes a Senior Employment Consultant at Croner says: “In the last ten years or so people’s attitudes to what they should wear, and how they look for work, has changed. As a result employers have adopted a more casual approach introducing measures such as dress down Fridays. However, our survey demonstrates that we have reached the point where some employees are unsure of the acceptable boundaries and are failing to meet the standards their bosses want.

“As our research shows, it is really important for customer-facing staff to look presentable. Our advice to employers facing problems of employee appearance is to think about what image their business wants employees to portray. What is acceptable at one company may not be right elsewhere. Whatever an employer decides to do they must consult with their employees to make sure that they do not have an adverse impact on, for example, one particular sex, race or individuals holding a particular religion or belief.”

Dress Code Policy

Employers should ensure that any policy they design places equivalent requirements on all employees regardless of the sex or race of the employee.

Once in place there is a duty on an employee to comply with the code, but he or she may have a claim against the employer if the code places him or her at a disadvantage compared to other employees, on the grounds of his or her sex or race, or the individual’s religion or belief.

When introducing a dress code they must ensure the following:

  • Dress codes for men and women are equivalent and do not place an onerous burden on one sex rather than another.
  • If an employee or worker dresses in a manner particular to his or her religion or belief, this should be respected so long as it does not impact on the safety practices of the workplace or the effective performance of the work that he or she is required to undertake.
  • An employee’s dress or appearance should be respected unless it creates a hostile or offensive atmosphere for others.
  • There should be a legitimate reason or aim for the requirements of a dress code and the requirements should be proportionate to achieving that aim (ie objectively justified).
  • It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that employees are actively made aware of any code on dress or appearance at work.
  • An individual who is undergoing gender reassignment should be allowed to dress appropriately for the relevant sex.
This article is correct at 09/11/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

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