How to Create a Workplace Dress Code and Appearance Policy

Peninsula Team

October 26 2020

A dress code and appearance policy brings uniformity and professionalism to your workplace. Your employees are the face of your business. Their appearance in the workplace also reflects your company’s work culture. It is important that your staff looks neat and presentable when interacting with customers.

Setting a policy on work attire and appearance will avoid confusion on what is allowed in the workplace and what isn’t. It may also save you from awkward conversations with employees who may show up in inappropriate attire, and from needless controversies.

You may want to set your dress code and appearance policy according to your industry and workplace safety requirements. For instance, an accounting firm or a bank may expect its employees to wear business attire.

But a retail store or a daycare may opt for business casual and casual wear. Some industries, such as hospitality and healthcare, may ask their staff to be in uniforms.

What should I include in the policy?

You should include a dress code and appearance policy in your employee handbook. It should be easily accessible to your employees and ideally shared during induction.

The policy should set down your expectations on employee attire in the workplace. It should communicate what attire is allowed and what isn’t. You could allow for casual dress Fridays or give your staff a break from the set dress code on special occasions.

Your policy should also clearly state that employees who do not adhere to the dress code may face disciplinary action.

But your policy must not be in violation of the employment standards code. It should not discriminate against any employee on the grounds protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It should be compliant with health and safety legislation. Your policy should be uniformly applicable to all your employees irrespective of their gender or race.

It should not conflict with your employee's religious beliefs or gender expression.

How can I avoid discrimination?

Make it clear in your policy that you will accommodate, within reason, exceptions for religious and cultural reasons, and reasons of disabilities.

An employer has a duty to accommodate employee requests related to grounds of discrimination to the point of undue hardship.

Undue hardship is when adjusting policies to a such requests is not possible as it would be very costly or create health or safety risks.

Even in workplaces where staff wears uniforms, employers should make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs. For instance, some employees may wear a head gear/head covering or keep beards due to religious reasons.

Can I ban visible tattoos in the workplace?

In Canada, freedom of expression is not a ground protected under human rights legislation. Employers can prohibit visible tattoos in the workplace. But your reasons for opting for such a policy against body art may depend on your workplace culture and industry.

For instance, a law firm or bank may not like their customer-facing staff to sport large, visible tattoos as it may not align with their brand image. But visible body art may not be an issue in a trendy restaurant or retail store. 

It is useful to keep in mind that some tattoos may be religious or ethnic. In such a case, you’d have to make an exception to avoid discrimination.

If visible tattoos don't interfere with your workplace operations, you may lose out on qualified and competent candidates by having a no-tattoos policy.

It is also important to note that in the recent past, employer bans on visible tattoos were struck down by courts in the absence of reasonable justification for the policies.

Do you need help creating a dress code and appearance policy?

For advice on HR and health and safety policies, call an expert today at 1 (888) 247-3652

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