According to a recent report, Goldman Sachs has done away with the rule of wearing a suit and tie to work anymore. Virgin Atlantic made it mandatory for the female cabin crew to apply makeup when coming to work. However, this rule is now a thing of the past too.
So, is this a trend of the companies relaxing their existing dress code and rules requiring employees to appear in a certain way? Is an employer permitted under the law to tell an employee what they should wear to work and what they shouldn’t? Can employers set dress codes for the employees? Well, it’s time to find out.
The Law Regarding Employer Dress Codes
Employers are legally permitted to lay out the rules regarding an employee’s dress code as long as no discrimination is made based on gender, ability, or age. You won’t find any particular legislation that talks about workplace uniforms.
But the law on discrimination will apply. As per the Equality Act 2010, employers can set different dress codes for male and female employees. For instance, it is permitted by law if employers instruct men to wear a shirt and tie and women to wear smart business attire.
An employer can’t allow men in jeans if they aren’t allowing women in skirts. This discrimination should not happen. Indirect discrimination is illegal according to the Equality Act. Suppose an employer sets rules that none of the employees can wear jewelry to work. In that case, it might prove to be a disadvantage for an individual belonging to a particular religion that needs to adorn symbolic jewelry.
Having a dress code in place makes sure that the employees of an organization come across as smart to the outside world and maintain a corporate image. But what counts is the process through which the employer wants to do this. Why is it important for women to wear heeled shoes to look smart and professional? What’s wrong with flat shoes? Aren’t they good enough? One needs to ask these questions while discussing the dress code. If there are uniform regulations for the employees’ safety and health, then that can’t be challenged.
Are Employers Legally Allowed to Change the Dress Code?
Usually, the dress code is available in the staff handbooks. These happen to non-contractual documents. Therefore, employers are legally allowed to alter any detail, and they wouldn’t even need the staff’s agreement on it before the change.
However, discussing with every employee before bringing in any change is supposed to be a good practice. If uniform rules are part of the employment contract, an employer doesn’t have the authority to alter the rules without taking the employees’ consent.
Creating a New Dress Code Policy
When laying out rules regarding workplace uniforms, employers need to ponder over the reasons behind the rules. They also need to think about whether they can lay out the rules differently to look less intrusive. In an ideal situation, employees should have a detailed discussion before introducing new dress code regulations or updating the existing ones.
An employer must how a dress code policy might affect an employee who intends to dress up as per their religion. The employers should also do a little bit of thinking regarding the legal implications of any dress code stipulation on employees having any kind of disability and if there should be any reasonable adjustments to be made. They should let the employees know about the policy and ensure that the managers enforce the policy constantly.
It is important to ensure nobody forces the female employees to follow a strict dress code when the male employees have relaxations. This would help employers stay away from gender discrimination issues. They can consider training the employees on the policy if necessary.
Where Can You Find More Details?
US Department of Labor has very detailed guidelines on employee rights. The guidelines offer legal guidance on setting up employee dress code regulations at the workplace and steer clear of discrimination issues.
Employers must never enforce a dress code policy just based on gender. In other words, they should make have strict rules for women while being lenient towards men. This may land them in trouble. Talking to an attorney before formulating a dress code policy might help you avoid unnecessary legal hassles.