As the employer, you have the right to ask your employees to dress a certain way – within reason. With all of the controversy in the news regarding women and heels, men and suits and so on, it’s important to keep the dress code fair to both men and women. You may feel as though you have the right to tell anyone how to dress but there are important factors that you need to consider -religion, disability and other personal reasons.
Depending on what sector you work in there are general dress codes for all sorts of reasons; health and safety, brand identity, practicality and more. The important thing to consider is how you introduce a dress code if you don’t currently have one or how to introduce it as part of your induction for new employees without causing any upset.
You may consider introducing an employee handbook for new and existing employees so that they have somewhere to look to if they are unsure about a certain rule or regulation. Within your employee handbook, you could have a summary of what you expect your employees to wear. As well as listing what they can/should wear, you should have a list of things that are not acceptable, for instance, open toe heels when working on a building site, offensive slogan t-shirts and so on. It’s also important to tell employees who they should contact if they have any objections to the dress code for religious reasons, personal beliefs or other circumstances.
It is then your decision whether you accept your employee’s objection. You must make sure that you do not discriminate and that you act legally and fairly.
You may have a small team and you find it easier to just communicate what dress code you expect them to follow. It’s important that you explain to them what you find acceptable and what you do not, avoiding any uncertainty. If you fail to mention to an employee what you do not find acceptable it is then difficult to give them a warning or to discuss the issue with them in the future. Make sure that what you are communicating to employees is fair and try to understand those with exceptions to the rule.
When you are communicating these rules to each individual make sure that your rules are consistent. You can’t demand that one woman wears skirts and the other trousers, you must be fair to each and every employee & avoid discrimination.
One to One
If you feel as though there is an employee who is not complying with your set rules, question them about it alone. Do not bring it up in front of the whole office, they may have a genuine reason for their rule-bending and you should address this professionally. You may find that some employees are not following the rules out of rudeness or ignorance, this should be addressed in the same manner as any other workplace issue. You should discuss this one to one and if you feel as though it is necessary, provide them with a warning (only if the dress code is fair and indiscriminative!)
Like any other workplace issues, you should address them with care and consideration. Just like the dress code – professionalism should be adopted throughout these procedures to ensure you have happy employees!