Applying a dress code can be difficult for employers as it can have the potential for employees to bring claims including sex, religion and belief discrimination. ACAS have recently issued new guidance on dress codes in the workplace to provide employers with further clarity on best practice http://www.acas.org.uk/dresscode.
The Code states:
- Employers must avoid unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy
- Employers may have health and safety reasons for having certain standards
- Dress codes must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements
- Reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when dress codes are in place. Points to consider when implementing and preparing a dress code include:
- A dress code policy within a staff handbook can be clearly beneficial to an employer as it can assist with corporate branding and image, professionalism in the workplace and provide employees with clear information as to what is and is not acceptable clothing to wear at work.
- If you are considering implementing a new dress code policy or amending an existing one substantially, you should consult with the employees and invite their feedback on any dress code proposals;
- A dress code policy should be clear. If language is too broad and open-ended, this can result in a policy which is difficult to enforce. For example, phrases like “professional attire” do not make clear what is and is not acceptable to wear. Instead, employers should give examples of what can and cannot be worn;
- A dress code should be reasonable depending on the workplace in question to avoid being overly restrictive which may then affect workforce morale. In some environments it may be acceptable to wear smart casual business attire for example in creative or marketing roles. Whereas, in a law or accountancy firm, smart business attire i.e. suits will be appropriate;
- Different dress codes for men and women can be acceptable but employers should ensure that the standard of dress is the same to avoid any less favourable treatment;
- Employers may consider it appropriate to address issues concerning religious dress in any dress code policy. Employers must think carefully when considering decisions to not allow employees to wear articles of clothing connected to religious belief. Employers may need to have reasoning connected to health and safety or a significant business reasons for any decision to ban such items; and
- Employers should ensure that they enforce any dress code policy consistently with all employees to avoid discrimination claims.
For more information about dress code policies or any other employment advice, please contact Sally Eastwood on 0845 050 1958 or email us.