Workplace Dress Code Guidance: When You Should & Shouldn’t Dictate Do We Really Still Need Workplace Dress Codes?
At the start of
May 2019 Investment bank Goldman Sachs relaxed its dress code, giving all of its 36,000 employees the chance to dress down every day. Do you think relaxing the workplace dress codes could improve productivity? Workplace dress codes vary greatly. Some companies insist on ‘traditional’ business attire, customer facing companies rely on a staff uniform to identify staff from customers.
For some, a dress code brings a sense of belonging but for many it’s a throwback to expected business practices. In fact, many businesses relax their dress codes on a one off basis weekly/monthly. And on those ‘casual days’, attire can vary from one person to another – from t-shirts and woolly jumpers to that one person who keeps their suit on because that’s what they think should be worn to work. However regardless of your official workplace dress code, there are always employees who like to push the boundaries.
A study conducted by The Independent found that
only 1 in 10 employees wear a suit to work and 7 out of 10 now dress casually for work. Does the necessity of a dress code still have a place in the modern workplace? What Do Your Staff Think?
Workplaces vary greatly and not all of them involve face to face interaction with customers or visitors. If this is the case, is a
workplace dress code policy even necessary? Some people argue that this is the perfect time and place for staff to express themselves; freeing the tattoos, piercings and ripped clothes.
Others disagree and say that a dress code brings a sense of belonging to a workplace. If everyone’s wearing their ‘uniform’ you can push toward the company’s goals with unity and pride.
In 2016, 150,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be
illegal for an employer to require a woman to wear high heels. The petition was started by Nicola Thorp, who was sent home without pay after refusing to wear high heels. The current legislation, following the petition in parliament, states “ A dress code could be unlawful, for example, if it requires female employees to wear high heels, with all the discomfort and inherent health issues these can cause, because it treats women less favourably than men.”
Many businesses that enforce a corporate dress code require male staff to wear a suit and tie. However, female staff get the vague requirement of ‘business dress’. This is a problem and not a fair and favourable balance in the workplace. Women could argue that they have more margin for error because their dress code is vague. Men could also state that their dress code is more rigid and gives them less choice. It could also be argued that such differing guidelines could be considered unfairly discriminatory against one gender.
Can A Dress Code Discriminate Against Someone’s Gender Or Cultural Identity?
What happens if you have an employee who has a gender identity outside of male or female? Employees who identify as transgender, gender–nonconforming, nonbinary or gender-fluid may feel targeted or burdened by dress code policies made on the basis of gender. There’s also a legal implication to ignoring the impact your dress code has on the
gender identity of your employees.
Many dress code policies have a section covering grooming practices. We’ve seen policies that state acceptable hair lengths and even colour! What many companies overlook is that these grooming policies can
discriminate against women of color as well as religious minorities.
For example, requiring black women to pay for and maintain complicated hairstyles to alter their natural hair may indeed fall under laws put into place that prevent placing a heavier burden on certain employees due to something they cannot control.
Does your dress code allow for reasonable adjustments?
Employees with disabilities, whether temporary or permanent, must be allowed to dress in a way that doesn’t hinder or complicate them. Is It Really Worth The Hassle?
With so much to consider, is a dress code even worth it? Most likely not. If the dress code doesn’t impact the productivity or behaviour then allowing casual attire can only help the workplace. If an employee is more relaxed and comfortable in the workplace, then their productivity and overall enthusiasm for work will only rise. And if you believe that the clothes an employee wears has a negative impact on the way they perform at work, then maybe it’s time you look at management procedures rather than uniform rules.
If you’re looking to relax your HR policies or just need some expert advice, call our team today on 08450 50 40 60 for your free consultation!