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Cultivating A Corporate Look

Published February 22, 2021 -

As a business owner, you want your employees to make a good impression on your clients as the ‘face’ of your business. A professional appearance can enhance your client’s perception of your business and shows respect for both the business and the client.

Imagine this scenario:

You are a partner in a Law Firm and your firm has a workplace policy regarding dress code and appearance which includes:

  • Suits (and ties);
  • Neat and groomed appearance at all times;
  • Understated jewellery;
  • No extreme hair-cuts or colours;
  • No visible piercings or tattoos.

So, can you insist your junior lawyer who turned up to work this morning with a mohawk and several facial piercings, changes their hair do or covers up?

In the above circumstances, yes, you can, provided the employee is aware of the dress code and appearance policy.

An employer can specify that prospective employees have certain characteristics necessary to allow the job to be performed to the required standard, which includes setting standards in the form of a clear, concise dress and appearance policy which the employee must meet as part of their employment. Policies should be made clear to all prospective employees and documented in a policy manual or employee handbook and may also indicate whether visible tattoos and piercings, extreme hairstyles and hair colours and unusual wardrobe choices are acceptable in the employee’s specific role. 

If your employee is in a customer-facing role and you feel that visible tattoos and piercings will affect an employee’s performance or ability to perform their job, then it may be reasonable to request that tattoos be covered or piercings removed, unless they have cultural or religious significance. Be careful of discrimination if the tattoos and piercings are a reflection of cultural identity and family ties, for example.

There may also be some health and safety issues depending on the industry the employees are in and the role they are doing. Take beards for example. Beards can be a hazard in the food industry in terms of hygiene, so it may be reasonable to ask the employee to shave or cover-up. However, if the beard is of cultural or religious significance, the employer should consider all available alternatives which can accommodate beards safely, such as beard coverings or full-face masks.

It is best to make clear from the outset what the company expectations are in terms of dress and appearance. We recommend you draft a workplace policy on the importance of your company’s image from the viewpoint of an objective and reasonable customer and emphasise how appearance and attire can either enhance or diminish that image, then put it in a policy manual or employee handbook. Be prepared to offer some leeway if it is a matter of religious or cultural significance, as well as some avenues for discussion and to resolve any issues.

We can help you with policies and procedures setting professional presentation standards for your employees appropriate for your business and industry. Use our BrightHr and BrightSafe Apps to store and access policies online and be notified when employees have read them. Call us for free initial advice on 0800 675 700

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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