As an employer, you may wish to consider establishing a workplace dress code which forms part of your staff handbook and employment terms and conditions. For many businesses, it is sufficient to recommend something as simple as ‘business attire’ but in other cases you may need more clarity to prevent any potential issues arising to unlawful sex or race discrimination claims against you.
Where it is a matter of health and safety, then employers can clearly state what type of safety clothing or equipment must be worn, and if employees do not conform they are in breach of their employment contract.
When establishing a dress code, the employer must ensure that all staff are kept informed, especially at the start of employment or even at interview. You can state what standards are appropriate and expected to maintain company image.
However, under the Equality Act 2010 no employer can create or implement a workplace dress code that can be qualified as sexist or discriminatory in any way. For example, there have been recent high profile legal cases when tribunals have gone against the employer for forcing women to wear high heels. Similarly, the employer must consider any adaption of their workplace dress codes to accommodate employees whose cultural or religious beliefs make it difficult for them to comply.
As with many aspects of the law, it is a matter of flexibility and reasonableness, but as a matter of good practice it is advisable to have any workplace dress code clearly documented, and to ensure that it is integral to your employment terms and conditions. Dress codes at work are permissible provided that they do not give rise to unlawful discrimination.
If you would like further advice on establishing a workplace dress code or any form of staff contract, talk to our employment law specialists at Simpkins & Co who will happy to assist.
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