What’s happened to the Jacket and Tie?

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Many of us wore uniforms to school from a very young age, so having a dress code as an adult isn’t necessarily a new concept; however, changing times are seeing more Organisations and sectors becoming progressive and moving away from formal business wear.

Certain jobs will require uniform for identification such as medical staff or the police. For other roles, it will be for health and safety reasons for work outdoors, manufacturing or manual labour.

Gone are the days where you would see almost every commuter in a suit and tie or skirts and heels. Nowadays you see far more variation between businesses and sectors. US banking giant Goldman Sachs recently announced a ‘firm-wide flexible dress code’, showing that stipulations set by employers about what employees can and cannot wear are evolving in some of the most unexpected places.

Should you dictate what your employees should wear? What is acceptable? Can you demand that they wear a suit or should you give them free reign? The general consensus is that you can have a dress code, but it should relate to the job, be reasonable and appropriate. Whilst some people work better and feel more relaxed in a pair of jeans, others feel more focussed and on top of things in a smarter outfit. Some clients will have more trust in a Company whose employees are dressed impeccably whilst others prefer a service provider to be presented in a more casual relatable way. It is about striking the right balance without any detriment to the Company and it’s overall goals. One solution is perhaps a ‘smart casual’ dress code with a requirement that you step it up when you are client facing and then have a ‘dress down Friday’. Putting the onus on the employee to make appropriate choices, rather than strict rules, will generally have the desired outcome.

The two most important things to keep in mind are that you communicate the dress code clearly to everyone and it is non-discriminatory. If you choose to have a dress code, put together a Policy – it doesn’t need to be pages long, just clear and concise so that everyone knows what is expected and ensure there are no grey areas. State your requirements with regards to clothing, and appearance. Put the Policy in your handbook and make it known to your employees as well as new starters; one of their first questions is often “is there a dress code?”!

Last but most definitely not least, ensure that it is non-discriminatory towards any community. The dress code should apply to men and women equally although standards can be different but equivalent. You need to be able to justify why the code is in place for the job in hand; for example if it is for safety or image. Think primarily about what you are trying to achieve and then make sure it could not lead to any discrimination claims involving any of the nine protected characteristics.

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