Dress Codes In The Workplace

Dress Code

Dress codes are a particularly contentious area in the United Kingdom. While most people may not think much about what they wear to work, for others it can be a particularly sore point. The outrage over a female employee sent home due to not wearing heels brought dress codes to the attention of media and the government.

The government announced that it would publish a workplace dress code guidance for employees in the summer that would seek to highlight what employers should consider in a dress code. It made clear that dress codes that require significantly more from their female employees than their male counterparts (and the opposite should the case arise) are unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Employers Need To Consider Their Dress Codes

What should be noted though is that the government will not be introducing new legislation that would ban employers from requiring women to wear heels and so forth. Instead, it encourages employers to look at their own codes and ensure that if something is a requirement, that there is an equivalent smartness required of the opposite sex.

For certain work environments, such as retail or the medical sector, there may be a uniform that all employees are required to wear, regardless of gender. Office workspaces however often allow employees to dress how they please within their specified dress code.

Consider The Working Environment

The environment that employees work in will often dictate what the dress code is. Warehouses are more likely to have a dress code that revolves around safety, so the requirement to wear hard hats, steel toe boots and so forth.

Medical or food environments may require no jewellery to be worn and hair to be covered at all times. For office environments, the culture of a company can also change what is required from employees to wear. Small start ups or technology companies may have a culture that encourages casual wear which can mean there is a very lax dress code.

In contrast, law offices or banks are more likely to have a corporate culture that needs to portray a professional appearance at all times. As such, suits and smart dress would be more likely to be required at all times. As such, when designing a dress code, consider the working environment of your company or office when creating a dress code.

Ensure It Is Not Discriminatory

Some employers may require their employees to wear certain items of clothing, but any requests should be looked at carefully to ensure that they are not discriminatory. As highlighted before, while requiring high heels is technically allowed, there should also be an equal requirement of smartness on male colleagues.

It should also be taken into consideration the health of employees as ACAS guidance on dress codes notes that high heels have been found to cause pain and potentially even harm. This means that there could potentially be grounds for discrimination claims if there is no justifiable reason for requiring women to wear heels.

Consider if it is truly necessary, some women may choose to wear heels anyway whereas for others it could be a source of pain and discomfort. This is particularly true for any job that requires standing for long periods of time.

Before making any changes to a dress code, consult with employees to gather their thoughts and opinions. By doing this, an acceptable dress code could be reached that employees are happy with and that also suits the company.

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Sarah Jubb
Sarah Jubb

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