Workplace dress code is one of the most challenging policies to implement within an organisation. As business owner, you will find yourself caught in between projecting a professional image for your company and the convenience of your employees.
Likewise, dress codes requiring employees to wear specific clothing pieces based on gender is grounds for discrimination under Australian law. The same thing that policies against piercings, tattoos, haircuts and hair colour are deemed discriminatory.
Dress codes and uniforms are an effective branding tool and they help unify an organisation. But members of the workforce now have varying thoughts about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to workplace clothing. How would you know if you are doing the right thing?
Dress code policies must be enforced equally among your employees. Gender issues are particularly tricky because men and women wear different clothing. Allowing male employees to wear jeans but not women is already deemed discriminatory. Also, in one particular case, a male employee sued his employer for discrimination for prohibiting him to wear ear studs but allowing women to wear earrings. The employee won the case.
The same goes for religious orientation and persons with disability. An employee may be obligated to wear religious articles or clothing that are outside the dress code guidelines, just as an employee with disability may find a certain prescribed clothing to be too restrictive. Reproaching these types of employees with dress code breach may be grounds for discrimination.
Business owners should be able to make reasonable accommodation for the employees, especially if it doesn’t affect important business operations.
Skirts, suit jackets, and high-heeled shoes project a professional image for women within the office. But they are mostly inappropriate to wear outdoors or other circumstances where employees will have to make rounds or stand for long periods of time. As a business owner, you have the right to provide direction about clothing and appearance in general terms, but you have to be reasonable with your policy.
One way to do this is by conducting a survey among your employees and gathering their feedback about your dress code policy. Ask them whether your recommended dress code is agreeable in terms of style, form and functionality. Make sure it doesn’t interfere with important business functions.
Also, don’t be afraid to exclude certain clothing items that you think are inappropriate for work, such as distressed jeans, flip-flops, swimwear, shorts, and clothes made of sheer fabric. You can also include any grooming requirements, such as requiring employees to report to work tidy and well-groomed.
Health and Safety
Another important factor to consider is whether your prescribed dress code promotes health and safety. In designing a policy, make sure that the clothing will not cause any accidents or injuries.
For certain industries, safety is a strict requirement. Employees working in industrial environments are always at risk of getting struck by moving vehicles and heavy equipment. For this reason, employees are required to wear work uniforms and gear that are compliant with the Australian standards for safety.
Hospitality employees are also prescribed to wear aprons, caps and other protective clothing that are also designed to be functional. Employees in the healthcare and medical industry should also adhere to health and safety policies in the hospitals or clinics.
Your dress code policy may be a vital part of your business. But to avoid any conflicts or discrimination claims, treat everyone fairly and always be open to suggestions. If an employee voices out a concern, decide whether their issues are valid and allow an exception where it is needed. Communicate the need for enforcing a dress code and list the good reasons.
If you are looking for workplace-appropriate, comfortable and functional workwear and uniforms, feel free to browse our online shop!