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Personal appearance and behaviour

Susie Munro

Editor's message: Having policies in place on employee behaviour and appearance helps your employees know what standards are expected of them, in relation to their dress, use of social media or behaviour at work-related social events, for example.

Properly implemented policies can help to avoid tribunal claims against your organisation, and potential liability for the actions of an employee, such as for harassment. But legal action is clearly not your only concern; employee behaviour that comes to the attention of social media and brings your organisation into disrepute can be even more damaging.

You need to make sure your policies on employees’ appearance and behaviour do not themselves put your organisation’s reputation at risk, through being discriminatory or otherwise out of step with current attitudes. For example, could your dress code result in a petition with more than 150,000 signatures and an investigation by a Parliamentary committee, as happened when receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home from an agency assignment with PwC for wearing flat shoes?

With the introduction of the GDPR, you are likely to have been particularly focused on data protection issues, which should include keeping on top of how employees are using your communications technology. Having policies on this can help to prevent data breaches and other unlawful processing of personal data.

Susie Munro, senior employment law editor

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