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Emma O'Connor
Emma O'Connor,
HEAD OF TRAINING
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ACAS dress code guidance
10 September 2014

When might an Employer wish to implement a dress code?

Dress Codes are implemented in the workplace for a wide variety of reasons. A few examples given include:

  • to communicate a particular image or brand - this could vary from requiring employees to wear a uniform in brand colours, to a simply wishing to portray a smart corporate image

  • Health and Safety – for example, employees in the healthcare centre may wear uniforms that can be washed at high temperatures so that germs are killed, or certain clothing may not be allowed in factories when operating certain types of machinery.

What issues should Employers consider when implementing a dress code?

The ACAS Guidance highlights the following risk areas:

  • Employers should ensure their dress codes are not discriminatory – when setting out a policy employers should take into account employees who may dress in a certain way for religious reasons
  • Employers must consider whether there are any health and safety concerns which can be addressed by a dress code
  • Dress codes must apply to both men and women equally; although the requirements may be different – for example, a policy may state “business dress” for women, but may state for men “must wear a tie”
  • When a dress code is implemented, the employer must make reasonable adjustments for disabled individuals.

How can Employers ensure that a dress code is complied with by the Employees?

A dress code must always relate to the job and be reasonable in its nature. It is therefore good practice to consider the reasoning behind the policy. ACAS suggests that consulting with employees over any proposed dress code may prevent any problems with their acceptance and compliance, whilst ensuring that it is acceptable to both the organisation and the employees. The final policy should then be communicated to all employees along with a message that clearly states that if employees do not comply with the standards it may result in disciplinary action. Our advice is also that any policy should be non-contractual in nature and sit outside of the employment contract in a handbook.

Has ACAS highlighted any particular problem areas encountered by Employers?

The new ACAS guidance looks at the particular issues of tattoos, body piercings and religious dress.

  • Tattoos and body piercings – if employers wish to implement a policy which requires workers to remove piercings or cover tattoos at work, then employers should ensure that they have sound business reasons for doing so and ensure that Employees understand the standards expected from them
  • Religious dress – ACAS advises that employers should tread cautiously in this area as they should “allow groups or individual employees to wear articles of clothing etc. that manifest their religious faith”. If employers wish to ban such items then they will need to justify their reasons for doing so and they should ensure they are not indirectly discriminating against these employees. Any restriction should “be connected to a real business or safety requirement”. Employers are therefore advised to think about how they can work with employees to allow them to manifest their faith in a way that does not conflict with the business’ image, or health and safety requirements, rather than providing a strict and limiting dress code.

A copy of ACAS’ Guidance can be found at http://www.acas.org.uk/dresscode

For more information about how to draft or implement a dress code in your own organisation or to discuss a particular issueplease contact our Employment Team on 0118 952 7284 or submit an enquiry.

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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