Should employees be allowed to dress down in the heat?

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

August 01 2016

As summer takes over and office temperatures rise, employees may feel that they can no longer work comfortably when abiding by the workplace dress code. As dress codes can vary depending on the industry and the type of business, whether the temperature is reasonable will vary, too – so high temperatures may not affect employees who work in an office as much as those who carry out physical work outside. Employers need to decide whether it’s reasonable to adopt a more relaxed dress policy during the warmer months, and whether or not employees will benefit from being more comfortable during a heat wave. How to decide Your decision will likely depend on the type of role the employee carries out: it may be easier to relax dress codes for office based workers, but not as appropriate for employees in client-facing roles. In these kinds of roles, it’s important that employees portray a respectable company image, so dressing down may not be appropriate. Similarly, it may not be possible to relax dress codes around physical roles – for example, where the code is governed by health and safety regulations that may require workers to wear appropriate protective clothing or headgear in order to comply with the law. In industries where protective clothing is required and dress codes can’t be relaxed, it may be best to plan an annual shut down during periods where work can’t be carried out because of the heat. Policy tips If you decide to relax your dress code during the summer months, remember that standard legislation still applies as it does to all dress codes. Any dress policies, including temporary dress policies, must be:
  • Reasonable
  • Non-discriminatory
  • Equally applicable to everyone
That said, different requirements may be set for men and women, but they should be of the same standard to ensure fairness and meet the above requirements. Setting out standards It’s good practice to set out the standards which will apply during hot months as an additional part of your dress policy, so that employees are aware of any restrictions or requirements which apply even during relaxed dress code periods – such as an all-year-round prohibition of flip flops due to health and safety precautions. Employees should be aware that if they don’t comply with the standards you’ve set, disciplinary action may be taken against them, providing your policy allows this.

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