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Kirk Rice Blog

Employee Dress Code – High Heels And Tattoos!Written on February 14, 2017 by Kirk Rice LLP

Employee Dress Code – High Heels And Tattoos!

Don’t panic, we’re not adding tattoo artist to the list of services we provide! But with so much in the news recently about dress code at work, I thought some practical guidance might be useful.

Employee Dress Code – Guidance for Employers

Employee dress code and appearance at work are becoming more important in the workplace. This is partly due to media speculation and an uncertainty amongst employers and employees about what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable.

Let your employees know what is expected of them

If you haven’t already got a ‘Dress Code Policy’ in place, now is the time to think about it. Letting your employees know what is expected of them from the start will ensure consistency and fairness across the board.

What can I reasonably include in a employee dress code policy?

An employee dress code must apply to both men and women equally, although they may have different requirements, they must be shown not to be discriminate to either gender.

Think about the image that you wish to project, for example: a customer/client facing company may wish their staff to be dressed in formal business attire at all times and include factors such as being neat and well groomed, whereas a company that is not entirely customer/client facing may have a more relaxed dress code.

Where do we stand regarding religious dress?

Some employees may wish to cover issues regarding religious dress within their policies. However, we advise to tread carefully and you should allow employees to wear articles of clothing that represent their religious faith. Employers would need to justify any reasons for banning such articles of clothing, such as real business or safety requirements.

Can I ask female employees to wear high heels?

You may have seen in the press recently about a case when a female temporary employee was sent home without pay because she questioned why she was being asked to wear high heels throughout a 9 hour shift as a receptionist. She stated that wearing heels all day whilst on her feet would be debilitating and why couldn’t she wear flat shoes? And importantly, were her male counterparts being asked to wear the same? The company in question could not give a reasonable answer and this case has now provoked much interest in the world of employment law.

Employers are entitled to apply separate dress codes for men and a woman, however, the law clearly stipulates this should never place a greater burden on one gender compared to the other. So while asking men to wear trousers and women skirts – in line with gender norms – is fair; demanding women wear heels while men are entitled to much more comfortable footwear is clearly discrimination.

Tattoos, piercings and body modifications?

An employer can ask you to cover up tattoos, piercings and body modifications if they wish to. Many employers are concerned that any body art or modification will offend clients and customers and can include in their dress code policies that some or all body modifications are covered whilst in the workplace. Again, in the press recently has been a certain coffee house, who has relaxed its policy on tattoos and piercings because it supports self-expression and inclusion. But, an employee dress code still exists with tattoos on the neck or face forbidden, along with offensive tattoos.

What about in the summer months when the temperatures are high?

Some companies offer a ‘summer dress code’ which stipulate what is and what is not acceptable, some leave it to the common sense of employees. As an employer, you need to make clear what you find acceptable in the summer and what are definite no-no’s. For example, do you want your employees turning up to work in flip flops and shorts? Whilst this may be acceptable for some ‘less professional’ environments, it’s not acceptable in an office world. Make things clear when the temperatures start to rise, you can give the option of short sleeve shirts or blouses and no ties (for men) whilst not meeting clients. You can still maintain your ‘standard’ dress code, but with a little flexibility for your employees.

What about dress down days?

Dress down days are entirely at an employer’s discretion, but there are still rules that need to be adhered to.

For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to state that you will not tolerate ripped jeans, rude slogan t-shirts or clothing that exposes too much cleavage for example. As the saying goes….if you can wear it to a nightclub, don’t wear it to the office!

This is one of many staff related issues that can make running and maintaining an HR function expensive and many businesses find the cost hard to justify. Did you know that this is a service we offer?

If you would like to discuss how we can help you with your staff management systems, do call Maxine Guest on 01344 875000 or email info@kirkrice.co.uk