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Introduction to this document

Dress and appearance policy

You will no doubt want your employees to dress appropriately to project a good image for your business. Whatever dress code you adopt, it must not be unreasonable or place unnecessarily restrictive demands on your employees. However, it’s reasonable to impose clothing rules in order
to comply with essential health and safety or
hygiene requirements.

Not to your taste

Most employers have some form of dress code, whether to project a particular business image or on health and safety grounds. Where you do have a dress code, make sure it’s reasonable and that you have not been purely subjective and based it on no more than your own particular tastes and preferences. Where employees do not come into contact with customers or clients, then it’s expected that a dress code will be more relaxed. Our Dress and Appearance Policy statement provides for different options depending on whether the employee comes into contact with customers or clients or not or whether they are required to wear a uniform or protective clothing. The important point is that you are requiring employees to dress in a manner appropriate to their role and to the needs of the business, taking into account health and safety and hygiene requirements and standards. Finally, our policy includes a section on personal hygiene, covering such matters as body odour, dirty or stale-smelling clothing, dirty hair and bad breath.

The discrimination angle

Whilst there is no law that specifically deals with dress codes, in some cases rules on dress and appearance may constitute direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or religion or belief. For example, you could find that you fall foul of the law if you insist that women must wear skirts or that Sikhs cannot wear turbans and must cut their hair short. If the particular rule is clearly linked to genuine and legitimate health and safety or hygiene considerations, there should not be a problem but otherwise take care not to insist on dress codes that run counter to the cultural or religious requirements of certain ethnic or religious groups or the religious preferences of certain employees or which stereotype men and women. This does not, of course, mean your male employees can turn up for work in make-up and high heels (although be aware of the gender reassignment provisions!) but just that you need to ensure you are setting a dress code that is even-handed in a general sense, i.e. make sure the rules as a whole apply the same standards of smartness or conventionality to men and women.