ACAS has produced new guidance to assist employers in producing and implementing a dress code policy. A dress code policy may be necessary for health and safety reasons, to ensure that employees are easily identifiable or to convey the corporate image of the company.
Employers must ensure that any dress code policy requirements relate to the job in question and are reasonable in nature. It is acceptable for employers to have health and safety reasons for imposing certain dress code standards, such as requiring employees to have their hair tied back or covered for hygiene if working in a kitchen. Any dress code should be written down, contained in the staff handbook and clearly communicated to all members of staff so that they understand what is expected of them.
Dress codes for men and women
It is important that any dress code is non-discriminatory and applies equally to both men and women. However, employers are entitled to impose different requirements, such as requiring men to wear a tie. It is recommended that employers carefully think through the reasoning behind the dress code and ask employees for their views.
Employers wishing to add dress code conditions relating to religious dress should be very cautious, as employees should be allowed to wear articles of clothing or items that manifest their religion. Recent case law shows that employees should be entitled to wear items that demonstrate their faith such as an unobtrusive cross symbol or wearing a skull cap. Any restrictions on such items should have a genuine business or safety requirement to support it, as this may otherwise amount to unlawful discrimination. It is sensible for employers to discuss with employees how they can incorporate religious dress in a way that complies with health and safety or business requirements.