How to write an employee dress code

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

July 01 2019

It all started with a pair of high-heeled shoes. Back in 2016, one of the world’s largest professional services businesses, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), sent home a temporary worker, Nicola Thorp. And it was because she refused to wear two to four-inch heels as part of their dress code. For PwC, it was simple. No heels: no pay. They claimed that heeled shoes for women were smart. Nicola said that if flat shoes are smart for men, then they’re smart for women, too. The argument became so heated that the government got involved and published new guidance on dress codes at work, which applies to your business, too. Here’s what you need to know to write a fair guide for how staff should dress at work.

Don’t break the law

Under the Equality Act 2010, your dress code can’t discriminate against staff based on their age, disability, gender, marriage or civil partnership, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation or because they’re pregnant or on maternity leave.  The new government guidance goes even further. It states that while male and female staff don’t need the same dress code, your rules should be equivalent. That means writing a dress code that impacts all staff equally. So, how do you make sure your dress code doesn’t discriminate against your employees? Follow five steps…

Step one: be gender neutral

Treat all your staff the same. Let female employees wear trousers if they want to. And don’t force female staff to wear make-up or get regular manicures if you won’t ask your male employees to do the same.

Step two: protect staff from harassment

Make sure your dress code won’t expose your employees to harassment from customers or their colleagues. If your dress code asks employees to dress in a risqué way, it’s likely to be against the law.

Step three: remember staff health & safety

Don’t ask your employees to wear shoes that might put them at a higher risk of slips, trips, or injuries.

Step four: be flexible

The law says you can adapt your policy for staff based on their religion or if they have a disability. And if you have a transgender employee, they decide to dress according to the gender they identify with.

Step five: talk to staff and trade unions (if you have one)

That way, if you do switch up your workplace dress code, you’ll get less kickback from your employees. Want help with writing a workplace dress code? Call today: 0800 028 2420

Suggested Resources