Setting a Dress Code for Employees

Small Business News – 27th November 2012

Setting a Dress Code for EmployeesWith news of the Metropolitan Police banning recruits from having visible tattoos, the issue of acceptable dress code in the workplace has once again been raised.

The Met tattoo ban came into force on the 15th October 2012 and serving officers have been given an amnesty, having to declare tattoos that are visible on their hands, neck or face otherwise they could face dismissal.

The ban is due to senior police officers being worried about the public perception of tattoed bobbies appearing to be "thuggish" with Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe saying all visible tattoos damage the professional reputation of the force.

The police are not the only employer to be concerned about the physical appearance of their employees. Retailer HMV has also updated the dress code for its employees. Any employee with "extreme body art" has been asked to cover up.

A spokesperson for the music & entertainment retailer said:

"More discreet tattoos and piercings are not an issue so long as people look smart."

Two years ago there was a lot of attention surrounding the release of the incredibly wordy Swiss bank UBS dress code (3.9Mb PDF!) which was between 43 and 52 pages (depending on who you listen to).

Dress Code Survey

After receiving an increasing number of calls from employers concerned about how to handle the appearance of their employees, HR firm Croner commissioned a YouGov poll to find out more on the matter.

The research, released today, shows that just under half of British adults (49%) believe it is unacceptable for front-line workers to have a "non-professional" appearance.

Looking at which professions were most affected by attitudes towards appearance the survey found that 28% of those questioned said it was OK for shop assistants and bar staff to be "dressed down" but only 4% agreed that it was right for nurses and police officers to dilute their professional appearance.

When asked about which issues were most important when dealing with a shop worker 48% of those polled said that scruffy clothes were a problem followed by facial piercings (37%) and then tattoos (21%).

Louise Barnes, a Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, acknowledged that attitudes have changed in recent years, saying:

"Employers have adopted a more casual approach with measures such as dress down Fridays. However, our survey demonstrates that we have reached the point where some employees are unsure of the acceptable boundaries and are failing to meet the standards their bosses want."

Dress Code Best Practice

With many polls simply offering stats to be digested, Croner have turned their findings into practical business advice for small businesses with these four tips for best practice in implementing a dress code policy for employees:

  1. Ensure that any code on appearance is properly publicised within the organisation.
  2. Make sure the code is consistently applied throughout the organisation.
  3. No regulations governing appearance should have an adverse impact on one particular sex, race or individuals of a particular religion or belief.
  4. Consider the impact of any code on any traditional or religious dress, and be able to justify the code on business grounds in view of such factors.

Signing off, Louise Barnes added:

"Our advice to employers facing problems of employee appearance is to think about what image their business wants employees to portray. What is acceptable at one company may not be right elsewhere. Whatever an employer decides they must consult with their employees to make sure they do not have an adverse impact on, for example, one particular sex or race, or individuals holding a particular religion or belief.”

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For more small business advice on working with your employees see these stories: Are You a Good Boss? 11 Tips for Successful Management and Incentivising Staff is Not Just for Christmas.

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