Personal appearance and behaviour

Anderson Sarah Editor's message: Having a workplace dress code can help your employees understand the standards required when it comes to their appearance and can also help to protect your organisation’s public image.

Dress codes will vary from organisation to organisation, depending on what the organisation does and what it wants to achieve. You may have a formal dress code if you want to project a professional image to the public. Alternatively, you may require your employees to wear a uniform or protective clothing and equipment for health and safety reasons.

One of the challenges for organisations is making sure that dress codes are not discriminatory. Issues can arise if you do not apply the same standards of smartness or conventionality to men and women. However, bear in mind that conventions change. Having a rule that requires women to wear high heels and skirts at work is unlikely to be acceptable these days. You may also need to adapt your rules on dress and appearance to accommodate employees whose cultural or religious needs make it difficult for them to comply with the rules. Keeping a dress code as non-specific as possible may help avoid many of these pitfalls.

Ensuring that staff arrive on time and behave appropriately in their day-to-day relationships with colleagues and at corporate events and parties can be difficult for line managers without guidance and support. By putting in place policies setting out what is expected of employees, organisations can help their employees to understand how they should conduct themselves and make it easier for line managers to effectively manage any issues that crop up.

Sarah Anderson, employment law editor

New and updated

  • Hot weather

    Date:
    20 June 2017
    Type:
    Editor's choice

    Is there a maximum temperature beyond which staff are not expected to work? Should employers relax their dress codes when temperatures are high? Can employees request annual leave at short notice? XpertHR has a range of resources on employment issues that arise during hot weather.

  • Government to publish workplace dress code guidance following high-heels petition

    Date:
    24 April 2017
    Type:
    News

    New guidance on workplace dress codes will be published by the Government, but there will be no changes to the law following receptionist Nicola Thorp's petition to make it illegal to require women to wear high heels at work.

  • Date:
    20 April 2017
    Type:
    Legal guidance

    Recent European court judgments have suggested that employers can justify a ban on employees wearing certain religious items. But what do these cases mean for employers drawing up dress codes and will Brexit affect how they are interpreted in future?

  • Date:
    19 April 2017
    Type:
    Legal guidance

    With the Conservative Government announcing a snap election for 8 June, we look at five potential problems when politics mix with the workplace.

  • Dress and appearance policy

    Type:
    Policies and documents

    Updated to include information on the ECJ judgments in Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions NV and Bougnaoui v Micropole Univers, on employers preventing female staff from wearing Islamic headscarfs while working with clients.

  • Direct religious discrimination: employer's wish to please customer not a genuine occupational requirement

    Date:
    14 March 2017
    Type:
    Law reports

    The European Court of Justice has held that a direct religious discrimination claim in which an employee who wears an Islamic headscarf is dismissed to appease a customer cannot be defended on the basis of a "genuine and determining occupational requirement".

  • Indirect discrimination: religious dress ban for public-facing roles can be justified

    Date:
    14 March 2017
    Type:
    Law reports

    The European Court of Justice has held that a ban on religious dress that prevents a Muslim woman from wearing an Islamic headscarf when in contact with clients cannot be directly discriminatory, but is potentially indirectly discriminatory.

  • Podcast: Is your workplace dress code sexist?

    Date:
    10 March 2017
    Type:
    Audio and video

    Requirements for women to wear high heels, make-up and a skirt were common in the 1970s, but do such requirements have any place in a 21st-century employer's dress code? In this week's podcast, we discuss the recent controversy around sexism in workplace dress codes.

  • Date:
    17 February 2017
    Type:
    Legal guidance

    When receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home from an assignment for wearing flat shoes it created a flurry of debate and a subsequent parliamentary inquiry. Now the results of the inquiry have been published, what does this mean for employers who operate uniform or dress code policies?

  • Date:
    10 February 2017
    Type:
    Legal guidance

    Can employers have rules on personal relationships at work? Is it harassment for a worker to ask a colleague out on a date? Is it ever appropriate for a line manager to interfere in an employee's love life? With Valentine's Day approaching, we look at 10 potential problems with workplace romances.