It is perfectly legitimate for employers to tell employees to dress in a particular way at work. In some cases a particular kind of uniform is required in order to ensure the health and safety of the employee. This may not be the case in every organisation but there may be equally good reasons to set minimum standards.
It is understandable that employers want to set a good image of their organisation. Employees’ appearance no doubt contributes to that image and any wayward employees can create a sticky point if they do not maintain the professional ethos of the workplace.
Where the appearance of an employee does become a problem, there are routes an employer can take to attempt to rectify it. Although the situation is not along the lines of gross underperformance of the employee, or misconduct such as stealing or fighting, if you set standards in your organisation an employee should be expected to comply with them or face the consequences if they do not.
A good place to start would be implementing a dress code policy which provides rules on dress and appearance. This will probably mean different rules for men and women. As long as dress codes are fair handed and fit within the conventions of society, you are unlikely to run any risk of sex discrimination. Different treatment between the sexes does not automatically mean inequality.
Requiring women to wear skirts, however, may cause complaints of indirect religious discrimination because in some religions, it is frowned upon for females to dress in this way. It may be best therefore, to try to avoid this stipulation.
Ensure that all of your employees are made aware of the dress code policy and have opportunity to read it for themselves. You should also include a confirmation that failure to follow the rules of the policy may result in disciplinary action. This way, your employees know that this issue is taken seriously, and it also makes them aware of the consequences of non-compliance.
If, after the implementation of the dress code, any employees are not observing the rules of the policy, you may need to take action against them in accordance with the policy.
The first time that an employee comes into work in clothes not meeting your standards, a quiet word to them individually may be the best course of action. Remind them of the policy and your expectation that they abide by it. Make them aware that further failures of this kind will result in further discussions.
That will hopefully be enough to get the employee back on track. If, however, the same happens again, you may wish to consider beginning a formal disciplinary procedure for continued ignorance of company rules.
There may well be reasons for the appearance of the employee and these should be considered before deciding on which action to take, but be careful to show consistency when dealing with any incident of this kind – you should not show favour to one individual over another.
Having problems getting employees to dress appropriately in your workplace? Contact the 24 hour Advice Line on 0844 892 2772 for more advice.
How to ensure employees dress smartly for work
February 11 2011