How to establish an office dress code

As new workplace trends emerge, the office dress code is a popular topic of discussion. It seems that many workplaces have become more casual over the past few years, prompting organisations to consider introducing a more relaxed dress code. What’s more, companies that set ridiculous or unlawful dress codes are criticised in the news for their actions.

There certainly are many practicalities and legal issues to consider when setting a workplace dress code. But, whether you choose to go smart or casual, having a dress code in place is an important part of your culture and ensures that all employees are on the same page.

Have a clear policy

Many companies will make the mistake of listing their dress code as ‘business formal’, ‘business casual’ or just ‘business’, without providing any clear criteria of what this actually means. These can have a slightly different meaning in every company. So, you need to set out the exact rules for your office.

Having a clear policy on paper is the first step you need to take. Ensure that this is in a place that all employees can easily access, such as the employee handbook or your internal intranet. Be specific with your language and describe what clothing you prohibit. For example, if employees can’t wear jeans or flip-flops, this needs to be made clear. Remember to think about your company’s image when putting this policy in place as well.

Don’t single out certain groups

Make sure the policy doesn’t single out certain groups. Not only is this illegal because of discrimination legislation, it could cause tension amongst staff. Be careful of the language you use as specifying different dress codes for men and women can be deemed as sexist. For instance, you can’t say that women are allowed to wear shorts and men aren’t. Or suggest that women should wear heels.

In terms of religious discrimination, you can’t stop employees from wearing religious clothing unless it’s for safety reasons. Once you’ve written your policy, ask a few people to read it to check for any issues – they might spot something you missed.

Do consult with employees

You should be clear with employees as to what you expect from them. Make sure everyone understands the policy when they join the business. Alternatively, if you’re introducing a new dress code, you may have to sit down with your workers to explain why you’re putting the policy in place, when these changes will come into effect and to answer any questions.

If the policy is a big change, you should give employees time to adjust. After all, they may need to buy new clothing.

Don’t deduct money for uniforms

If your company has a uniform, it’s against the law to deduct it from their salary if they’re earning the minimum wage. Even if they’re being paid above the minimum wage, their pay must still be at or above the minimum amount after the cost of uniform is deducted.

As a courtesy, you may wish to pay for employees’ uniforms. This can avoid any confusion or issues, especially as employees may feel unhappy about using their salary to pay for work uniforms.

Do explain the consequences

So there are no surprises, you need to explain what happens if the dress code isn’t followed. Giving a warning would usually be the first step.  Here, you need to explain exactly what’s inappropriate about the way that they’re dressed, citing your policy as a reference. If it happens again, you may wish to put a formal warning in place, or suspension, depending on how serious the incident was.

In summary

Setting an office dress code can be complicated so following our advice can help to ensure that you don’t run into any complications. Make sure that you stick to all the legislation and are fair to staff when putting the policy in place.


Courtesy of CV Library.