Dress code - to wear or not to wear?

Steve Sweetlove 

Many organisations give guidance around dress code in the workplace because their employees are a reflection of their corporate image and they want some control over how it is projected... However, as highlighted in recent press there are situations where this can go wrong.

Recent examples 

It is clear that some roles require a specific uniform and other roles require adherence to a dress code for health and safety reasons. However dress codes should be reasonable and take into account the role that is being performed. A recent example of the effects of bias in dress code is that employees of a well-known airline have forced the business to amend their dress code policy for female cabin crew, allowing them to wear trousers.

There  are also major disputes surrounding religious dress. A case recently heard by the European Court of Justice has stated that it is not direct discrimination for a Muslim employee to be banned from wearing an Islamic headscarf. However, it is important to note, that in this case the employer had a policy in place that banned their employees from wearing anything that reflected religious or philosophical belief. Therefore, this rule was not directed only at Muslim employees and so did not discriminate against one religion over another. However, the final ruling on this case is yet to take place and even then, may not be considered in the same way in UK employment tribunals.

Implementing an informed dress code policy

When implementing a dress code, employers need to ensure that their requirements apply equally to all and no person is made to comply with a requirement that may put them at any disadvantage. Employers should allow some flexibility in their policies to allow employees to strike a balance where they feel they are complying with both.

Media interest and upcoming case law in this area will continue to make this a hot topic for employers as organisations continue to look at ways of balancing their organisational image with their employees. Please contact us for further information and if you would like some advice on implementing dress codes for your employees. Please contact us for further information.

If you would like any more information on this issue please get in touch with Steve Sweetlove or your usual RSM contact.