What can an employer do if an employee refuses to comply with a dress code?
If an employee refuses to comply with a dress code, the employer should meet with the employee to discover what objections they have to the dress code. In particular, the employer should be sensitive to any objections to the dress code based on the employee's religion or beliefs, or for any other reason potentially protected under discrimination legislation. For example, the employee may have a religious belief that requires them to wear a certain item of clothing. If the employer insists on compliance with the dress code in circumstances that lead the employee to assert that they are unable to comply because of their faith, the employee may be able to argue that the application of the dress code amounts to indirect discrimination. The employer may be able to justify this discrimination objectively, for example if it can show that compliance with the dress code is necessary for health and safety reasons, or to enable the employee to perform the role effectively, but it is preferable to avoid such disputes if possible.
If the employee does have reasonable grounds for objecting to the dress code, the employer should consider whether or not a more flexible approach to the code might be possible for the particular employee. If the employer is satisfied that the employee has no reasonable grounds for objecting to the dress code, and there is no potential discrimination against the employee, the employer may commence disciplinary action in accordance with its disciplinary procedures. A continued refusal to comply with the employer's dress code may lead to a fair dismissal of the employee on the grounds of misconduct or "some other substantial reason".