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The Merits of a Workplace Dress Code

Published August 11, 2016 (last updated December 3, 2020) -

There are many benefits to implementing a dress code within your business, especially in workplaces where staff have regular face to face contact with clients or customers. When determining whether or not it is appropriate to implement a dress code, employers need to be aware of the merits and possible pitfalls.

Pitfalls of a dress code

A British woman recently claimed she was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels. When she told her boss there was no way she would be comfortable completing a nine hour shift whilst on her feet, she was told to go home without pay, unless she went and purchased heels that were at least two inches high.

Forcing female employees to wear high heels, or imposing a gender specific requirement in the dress code, can land employers in hot water when it comes to New Zealand’s Human Rights Act 1993. While employers can advise employees as to what is and is not acceptable work attire, it must be a reasonable request that can be justified by the nature of the work performed and the specific industry or profession.

Dress codes make a good impression

When a customer walks into your business, the first thing they see is how your staff are dressed. If your staff are dressed untidily this may create a negative impression. If your workplace regularly interacts with customers, such as a restaurant, hotel or retail store, then having a dress code ensures when customers look at your employees collectively, they see uniformity and professionalism. A dress code does not necessarily mean a uniform thatall employees must wear, but may be a set of guidelines detailing what is or is not appropriate work attire.

Ensuring all your employees are dressed to a standard can also promote the feeling of belonging to a team, and your staff know when they are at work they are embodying the business, so are more conscious of how they are behaving.

It helps prevent untidy or incorrect attire

While employees may grumble at having to abide by a dress code, they will soon realise the benefits to not having to decide whether or not they are dressed appropriately. A dress code sets out clear expectations of employees, including personal grooming. This eliminates the worry of whether a shirt is going to be deemed inappropriate, as all employees need to do is check the dress code for guidance.

They promote a safe working environment

In construction industries a dress code is highly important as it will typically require all workers to wear protective clothing such as steel toe boots, reflective vests and full length pants. In the food industry a dress code may require hair nets and gloves be worn for health reasons.

If you have any questions relating to a dress code in your workplace, or require assistance in implementing a dress code policy, contact Employsure today on 0800 568 012. Our team of specialists can answer any question regarding discriminatory clauses and reasonable requests.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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