17th December 2018
No matter what dress code you decide to implement, the appearance of your workforce will go a long way to influence the overall image clients or partners have of your business. It can also play a large part in the reputation you develop. Your dress code helps to sculpt your company culture, so it’s imperative that your staff understand why dressing professionally is so important.
Establishing what is expected of your staff when it comes to their work attire and, more importantly, what is considered unacceptable, is key to maintaining a professional representation of who you are as a company.
Dress codes are useful in a number of ways and are implemented for various reasons, for example:
- Uniforms can be adopted to communicate image and help customers identify your staff.
- Health and safety, i.e. medical or health care staff may not be permitted to wear jewellery for safety reasons and certain clothing could be deemed unsafe when working with machinery.
- Maintaining a smart dress code aids professionalism as people tend to feel more productive when they are dressed sharply.
How Should a Dress Code be Implemented?
When considering a suitable dress code for your company, there are certain key points you should keep in mind.
Avoiding unlawful discrimination of any kind is probably the most important thing to remember during this process – dress codes must never discriminate based on protected characteristics. For example, disability, religion or gender.
In line with the Equality Act 2010, reasonable adjustments must be made to accommodate any person with a long-term illness or disability when a dress code is in place. Read more about the Equality Act 2010 here.
Consider any possible health and safety risks that might be involved with the work you and your staff do. It could be necessary to have certain standards, such as no open toe shoes or no loose hair, in place to ensure a satisfactory level of safety and hygiene.
Ensure that any dress code put in place applies fairly to both men and women. There might be slightly different requirements applicable to each, but gender should be treated equally. For instance, women may be required to maintain ‘business dress’, while men ‘must wear a tie’.
Other things to consider:
- Do you want to adopt a casual approach or will your dress code be strictly business attire?
- How could you make religious dress fit into your work environment?
- What position do you hold on tattoos and piercings?
- Could you include ‘casual days’ to give staff an additional incentive?
Making Staff Aware of your Dress Code Policy
Once you have a dress code in place, staff should be made aware of this. They should also be told what it includes and where they can find it. As with any other company policy, this should be readily available to staff at all times.
Remember to give staff a heads up if any changes are made to a pre-existing dress code policy – they can’t be expected to know that an update has been made if they haven’t been informed.
Addressing Staff who do not Comply with your Dress Code
Having a dress code policy will help your staff to understand what is and isn’t acceptable to wear to work. However, you may come across a time when you will need to pull an employee up if they aren’t following it. Having this in place will make addressing the issue easier and will give management the opportunity to maintain a consistent approach.
Knowing your Approach
It can be difficult to know how best to handle a situation that requires you to be critical of someone’s appearance. There are various elements to consider, such as personal circumstances or the emotional wellbeing of the employee, so knowing how to approach a potentially delicate conversation is very important.
Have an Informal chat
A conversation like this doesn’t necessarily need to be treated as a formal meeting if the employee hasn’t needed to be pulled up before. Approach them casually, ask if you can borrow them for a moment and pull them into your office for a bit of privacy. Alternatively, you could always take them out for a coffee to keep the chat more friendly and casual.
Remind them that you want to encourage individual expression, but that your dress code policy is in place for a reason. Be sure to explain to them why the dress code is so important as this will likely help them to understand why your intervention is necessary.
Bear in mind that this could be a sensitive subject, so make sure not to say anything that might hurt their feelings. Spin the conversation in a way that they can relate to and will make them stop and think.
“I have to tell you <name>, I think you have so much potential. I really want to help you to make other people see it too. Projecting a polished, professional image really matters in our line of work. It can be difficult to know what works and what doesn’t, but once you do, it’s easy. If you’ll let me, I’d really like to help you.” This is just an example, but it might help you to work out how to talk to your staff on their level. You could even tell them that someone had a similar chat with you when you first started out in your career and you found it really helpful.
Ultimately, the most important thing to get across is what the employee is doing wrong. It’s all well and good telling them what you expect from them, but they may not realise that there is anything wrong with their presentation. Just try not to embarrass them.
Keep it Confidential
Discretion can go a long way. As long as there is no reason for other people to be involved in the conversation, whatever is discussed should be kept between you and your employee. No one needs to know that you have pulled them up for the way they dress. Making it public knowledge might even have the opposite effect to what you’re trying to achieve.
Set a positive tone to your conversation. A negative approach is likely to make your employee feel or act defensively and you may risk your desired outcome.
Every situation is different and people have varied reactions, but put yourself into their shoes. Consider how you would want the same message delivered to you. How wouldn’t you want it to be handled? How would you react either way?
The last thing you want is for your employee to feel as though they’re in trouble. Follow any negative comments with something positive. Perhaps they have done something well recently or have been performing to a good standard. Throw some compliments in to make them feel good about themselves and always end on a positive note.
Everyone should be treated fairly and equally – it’s essential that no one is made to be singled out or seen to be receiving special treatment. Make sure that you don’t target one person if there are others who don’t comply with your dress code policy. The rules should always apply across the board to everybody.
Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.