Dress Code

29 April 2022

From casual to office wear, there are numerous types of workplace dress codes.

They were previously used to show a company’s culture and ethos. But dress codes today can personify representation, health & safety, and ethical rights.

Ensure that your dress code rules don’t discriminate against any employee or group. Or else, you could face legal claims and hefty compensation fees.

Learn about dress codes, different types of work attire, and how to support employees with specific clothing requirements.

What is a dress code?

A dress code is a set of rules which outline what is considered appropriate attire.

There are no set rules, as they’ll ultimately depend on what type of business you run. But most will include rules on uniforms, jewellery, appearance, and even personal hygiene.

What are different types of dress codes for work?

Dress codes can come in so many forms and can convey anything from safety to brand ethos.

Some different types of dress codes include:

  • Business formal: This revolves around office wear dress codes, which include wearing smart suits and dresses. It’s normally found in corporate worlds, like law firms or bank corporations.
  • Smart-casual wear: A smart-casual dress code for work can include a combination of semi-smart and casual clothing. Businesses may even practice ‘dress-down’ days, once a week.
  • Uniforms: Strict rules on clothing due to representation or safety; like in hospitality or military fields.
  • Grooming: Include rules on facial hair, hair length, and personal presentation.
  • Hygiene: Standards can vary from personal hygiene to wearing presentable clothing. (But caution is advised if issues relate to medical conditions).
  • Summer attire: More relaxed attire due to weather; but may rule out inappropriate clothing, like shorts or sandals.

Dress codes on uniforms

In some workplaces, an appropriate work dress code policy might relate to uniforms. This could be due to legal requirements or simply because of the job’s nature.

Uniforms can be used because of:

  • Health and safety: Provide security through protective gear, safety shoes, and medical uniforms.
  • Marketing: Promote or advertise brand-name or products through uniforms.
  • Productivity: Focus less on fashionable clothing if uniforms are provided.

But implementing them can also have downfalls. Some uniforms may affect performance or be considered inappropriate dress codes for work. So, listen to all concerns when it comes to uniforms.

What are the laws on dress codes?

In Ireland, there are no specific employment laws on dress codes. However, employees have legal rights against certain workplace rules.

Dress codes cannot discriminate against a person or group. Under the Employment Equality Acts (1998-2015), employees are protected from discrimination against these characteristics:

Religious discrimination

All businesses should be accepting and tolerant when it comes to religious practices. You should think about dress codes that acknowledge:

  • Religious clothing, like turbans and headscarves.
  • Religious items, like crucifixes and wedding bands.
  • Grooming practices, like not cutting hair or shaving beards.
  • Modesty beliefs, like wearing loose clothing or face-coverings.

Listen to your staff’s requests and ensure they don’t face religious discrimination due to their beliefs.

It is possible some items may breach health & safety rules. But it’s not advisable to action a company-wide ban on all religious clothing, symbols, or beliefs.

If an employer's company dress code were the subject of a claim, the employer would have to show that, despite the greater negative impact that the code has on one group or group of employees, the code was justified and necessary in all the circumstances.

Disability discrimination

Even if a condition is visible or ‘invisible’, you cannot discriminate against a disability.

Make sure your dress codes provide reasonable adjustments for employees with health conditions. And accommodate your uniform and attire rules to meet their specific needs.

For example, allowing employees to wear comfortable shoes instead of smart dress shoes. Or, wearing replacing a uniform item that an employee may be allergic to.

Gender discrimination

A workplace dress code cannot discriminate against someone’s gender or identity. Discuss how dress codes can be more inclusive and what rules they’d prefer.

You can legally introduce gendered attire, but it must not mistreat any one person. Workplace dress code discrimination is present in so many examples. Like, forcing females to wear heels, or instructing men to keep a clean-shaven face. The most important thing is that men and women have equal requirements with regard to prescriptions and conventional standards.

How to manage dress codes in the workplace

Originally, dress codes were unwritten rules found in the workplace. Employees may have figured out dress rules during their interview stages.

The best way to manage attire is through a workplace dress code policy and handbook.

All uniform or business casual policies need to outline your own rules, whilst adhering to religious rights, conventional standards, and equal treatment. Your policy should:

  • Identify legal and ethical rights on certain clothing.
  • Discuss how to improve the current rules.
  • Outline the importance of dress codes in the workplace.
  • Provide uniforms free of charge (or provide reimbursements).
  • Provide all rules through policies and handbooks.

Get expert guidance on dress codes with Peninsula

When it comes to dress codes, it’s important to find a balance between company needs and employee rights.

If your rules directly–or indirectly–discriminate against an employee, you could face substantial business damages.

Peninsula offers expert guidance on workplace dress codes and uniforms. Our HR services provide assistance in safeguarding employee rights, as well as helping you run a happy and safe workspace.

We also offer 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year; with multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants. Call 0844 891 0353 for help in promoting health and wellbeing at work.

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