Does A Return To Work Mean A New Dress Code?

As offices reopen, many businesses and workers are thinking about dress codes and whether those need to be adapted to reflect new working habits.

Dress codes are utilised by employers for a number of reasons, be they to convey a professional image or for health and safety reasons. For those employers who already have a dress code policy in place, the return to work will serve as a good opportunity to review that policy and check it is in line with current working habits, particularly the new hybrid way of working.

Tips on creating a new or updating an existing dress code policy

When deciding on a dress code policy, employers should take into account the following key points:

1. Avoiding unlawful discrimination in any dress code policy

In order to avoid claims that a dress code is discriminatory, the employer must ensure that it is fair. The standards set out in the policy must apply to all employees equally and must not adversely impact one protected group of employees, for example, because of their religion or race.

An employer can still enforce a dress code, however, to successfully defend a claim for indirect discrimination, the employer must be able to justify the policy as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

2. Any dress code must apply equivalent standards to both men and women

If a female employee was required to wear smart business wear to work but a male employee was allowed to wear more casual attire, it could be argued that the female employee has suffered discrimination on the grounds of her sex.

Case law suggests that imposing different restrictions on men and women will not necessarily constitute discrimination provided that the employer treats both male and female staff alike in that both are restricted in the choice of clothing they wear at work.

3. It is good practice for employers to consult with workers to ensure that a policy is acceptable

It might be that the dress code is dependent on the work employees are doing on particular days, for example, attending a client meeting or a hearing may require a different dress code compared to when an employee is working from home and away from clients.

4. Employers should be aware of the duty to make reasonable adjustments to a dress code in order to avoid placing disabled workers at a substantial disadvantage

For example, allowing an employee with a skin condition to wear a uniform made of a different material.

Employers should review their dress codes on a regular basis in order to address changing working habits. If an employer is making significant changes to a policy, it should consider consulting its workforce over those changes and once a policy is implemented, it is important that this is communicated and that all employees know what is expected of them.

creating updating dress code policy

How Nelsons can help

Sonia Tumber is an Associate in our expert Employment Law team.

If you would like any advice concerning the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Sonia or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.