How to Establish an Employee Dress Code

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How to Establish an Employee Dress Code


Workplace attire has evolved over the last few decades, so the answer to “what should employees wear to work” has become increasingly complex. There is no right or wrong dress code, save those that violate decency laws. What works for you will depend on your company’s culture.


Dress code is not a make or break factor for businesses. Some of the most recognized brands in the country encourage their staff to dress for comfort, including Google, Facebook, and Apple. Retailers such as PetsMart and Starbucks are also relaxing their dress code, easing up on previous policies aimed at tattoo and piercing concealment.


Bottom-line: there is no right way or wrong way, and neither way is guaranteed to have an impact on your company’s success. Some employers distance themselves from restrictive dress codes to improve staff morale and avoid driving away attractive job candidates. Alternatively, other businesses prefer to preserve a certain image for clients.


Regardless of where you fall on the “what not to wear” spectrum, we recommend a written policy with defined expectations. While the expectations themselves might be specific (e.g. all employees are expected to wear red bowties and top hats) to general (e.g. every day is casual Friday), you’re best providing answers to the questions you feel your employees are most likely to ask. In other words, things like where you fall on jeans, sandals, and yoga pants.


Body art, like tattoos and piercings, are a bit more difficult to monitor. You might outright prohibit all such body art, or ask that certain things to be covered. Perhaps only appropriate tattoos and piercings are allowed—whatever the case, it should go in your handbook.


Before you run off and happily ban all body art, though, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, you must allow for religious accommodations, as some religions do not permit the covering of tattoos or other religious items. If you veto body art across the board, be prepared to make certain allowances.


When it comes to facial hair and the suddenly-popular man buns, you have more leeway. It is legal to have a policy stating that facial hair must be well-trimmed or nonexistent. However, some employees might have disabilities that prevents them from being able to shave well or regularly, and there are also religious traditions closely intertwined with the maintenance of facial hair. Any objection noted by an employee based on a verifiable disability or religious belief will almost certainly need to be observed with an accommodation. True, you might be able to object the objection with the argument of undue burden, but that standard is very high and difficult to meet, and usually only recognized when the undue burden involves health, safety, or security concerns.


When it comes to hair itself, the best practice is to make your policy gender neutral. If your employee has long hair, you can stipulate that their hair should be neat and pulled back. While there are alternatives, TPC strongly recommends making your environment as equal as possible between the sexes.


Whatever you decide for your company’s dress code, the best practice is to have your guidelines in writing. You are always welcome to call or email the professionals at TPC and ask about structuring and implementing your dress code in your employee handbook.



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