A question received this week from a client: I have a member of staff who undertakes extra-curricular activities, dangerous sports in their own time and often incurs injuries, cuts, bruises etc. Can they be disciplined especially if they are client focused? Is there anything an employer can do or include within terms of conditions etc?
Client facing employees are often seen as the ‘face’ of the business as, in some instances, these may be the only part of the business that clients get to see throughout their dealings with the business. For this reason, a minimum standard of appearance is usually seen as vital to show the business in the best and most professional light.
Injuries, including cuts and bruises, can often lead to some uncomfortable questions as, whilst they may have been gained during legitimate sporting activities, the clients do not know this. This can lead to clients questioning what type of people you are employing and can lead to common misconceptions as to what activities caused the bruising and this puts an onus on the business as a whole. Regardless of the excellent work undertaken by the employee it is common knowledge that appearance will be the first thing judged and this could lead to a negative judgement on the company as a whole.
A dress code is commonplace within employee handbooks and it would be good practice to implement a policy including the covering of obvious bruising/injuries where it is possible to do so, i.e. by the wearing of long sleeves or trousers where the injuries are on the arms or legs. As long as this policy applies equally all employees and does not include any references to sex, religion or any of the other protected characteristics it will be non-discriminatory by applying a common practice on to all employees.
If this policy is implemented within the company’s dress code then an employee could be disciplined at a low level for flouting this if this is a reasonable response to the situation, however, some regard would have to be taken to injuries that are not so easily covered up, such as facial bruising.
You may need to explain to the employees that are taking part in these extra-curricular activities that they are potentially compromising the reputation of the business and that their appearance is distracting to potential or existing clients. The employees may need to make a decision as to what activities they wish to continue partaking in and any complaints or concerns raised by clients can be used as evidence of the negative effect the injuries are having.
For further clarification please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.