De-coding the Dress Code

Published: 7th February 2017

Company dress codes were in the news again last week after two commons committees called for a review of equality legislation.  Many examples of company rules around dress and appearance showed that women were being singled out and potentially sexualised by being asked to wear high heels, revealing clothing or make up. 
The commons review resulted from a petition raised by Nicola Thorpe, who was sent home from her job as a receptionist at PWC for not wearing heels.
So where does that leave the Company Dress Code?  Should it be abandoned altogether?
Not in our view.  We believe that a well thought out dress code can be a good thing.  It sets a clear standard for the company, reinforces your brand image and avoids disputes about unsuitable clothing. 
However, there are some key points to consider to ensure the dress code is fair and non-discriminatory:

    • Ensure that the rules apply equally to men and women. 
    • Consider whether your proposed rules will affect certain ethnic groups or religions more than others.  How can their needs be accommodated within your policy?
    • While it is reasonable to require a professional, smart appearance, it is not acceptable to apply rules that sexualise one gender more than another.
    • You are allowed to require employees to cover tatoos or remove piercings.

It is always a good idea to have your rules written down in a clear policy which is communicated to every employee.  Better still, get your team involved in writing the rules – they are much more likely to stick to them if they have created them.
For more information on drafting a dress code or any other HR matter, get in touch with me on 01484 841776 or e-mail us at