How to set your dress code – our top tips

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Many businesses choose to set their own dress code, and there’s loads of different reasons for this. It could be to reflect your specific business culture and values. Or it could be because of certain Health & Safety regulations or a need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

As a business owner you have every right to set your own dress code. However, what’s really important before you get to the specifics, is staying mindful of anti-discrimination laws.

An employer's dress code must not be discriminatory in respect of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

Types of discrimination to be mindful of


Religious discrimination

If you’re asking your employees to refrain from wearing religious dress then you must have a real business or health and safety requirement for this, or you risk being accused of religious discrimination.

Racial discrimination

Your grooming and dress code requirements might affect various races differently -be careful to consider cultural differences before making anything policy.

Disability discrimination

When you have disabled colleagues, as an employer you’re expected to make reasonable adjustments to allow them to perform their role. You’re also expected to accommodate a disabled employee who can’t fully stick to your dress code.

Gender discrimination

According to the Government Equalities Office, dress policies for men and women do not have to be identical, but standards imposed should be equivalent. That means the rules laid down should be similar for both men and women.

Sexual harassment

It’s vitally important that your dress code doesn’t lead to harassment of employees by their fellow colleagues. For example: naming and shaming employees in a memo who had broken dress code may result in inappropriate jokes.

Dress code and Health & Safety

When setting your dress code, Health & Safety should be front of mind for your staff. And you need to make sure that your employees are fully aware of the appropriate attire they need to comfortably and safely do their jobs.

The kinds of issues you might want to consider include:

  • Jewellery – Jewellery can present a Health & safety risk, especially if your business is in the care or nurseries sector or if your business uses machinery where jewellery could get trapped. So, you may consider asking staff not to wear jewellery in work. As long as you can justify this on Health & Safety grounds, you’re able to do this.
  • Hygiene – if you work with food then you may require your people to tie their hair back or even wear hair nets to maintain hygiene standards.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – if your colleagues are engaged in work that requires certain PPE – a construction site or factory, for example – then you need to be much stronger in enforcing that they wear specific items. As an employer, you’re also obliged to provide this free of charge.

Drafting a dress code policy

When it comes to sitting down to write your dress code policy, it’s helpful to consider a few points:

  • Make sure you’ve got sound reasoning behind your dress code
  • Consider consulting your employees beforehand, to get them engaged with your dress code
  • Think about how you’ll communicate your dress code with existing staff. How will you introduce it to new starters?
  • What happens if someone doesn’t comply with your dress code? How do you plan on dealing with that?
  • Plan in regular updates to stay in line with current trends
  • Try to identify any exceptions to the dress code – will you have casual Fridays? Will you allow casual days for certain events, such as charity drives?
  • Set a timeframe as to when the policy will be reviewed – every three months/six months/year?

Need some fashion advice?

While we may not be able to tell you about what fashions are on trend, our expert HR & Employment team are perfectly set up to advise you and the best way to draft a fair and enforceable dress code that suits your business.

Whether you need help drafting policies, or you’re not sure how to handle a complaint, our team is just on the other end of the line 24/7, 365 days a year. All you have to do is call.

If you’re interested in discovering what Citation can offer you just give our team a call on 0345 844 1111 and we can get the ball rolling.

And if you’re already a Citation client? Remember we’re always available on our advice line on 0345 844 4848.

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