Is it time to ditch the formal workplace dress code?

Read on to find out whether you should relax clothing rules in your workplace.

BrightHR Team

Dark wash jeans and a grey tee. That’s what Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s most powerful CEO, wears to work every day. And that got us thinking… 

Is formal workplace wear a thing of the past? Or does it still have a place in some businesses? We answer that question (and a few other common clothing conundrums) in our office wear guide.

First off, do I need to have a workplace dress code?

No, there’s no law that says you need a dress code for your workplace.

Why do some bosses have one then?

For lots of reasons. Some employers need to follow health & safety regulations because of the industry they work in.

While others want their people to dress smartly because they come into contact with customers as part of their job.

So you’re saying I have complete control over what my staff wear?

Well, not exactly. There are some limitations.

Under the Equality Act 2010, your dress code mustn’t discriminate against any of the nine protected characteristics including sex, disability and religion.

It should also treat male and female co-workers equally. For example, asking female employees to wear high heels could be seen as treating women less favourably than men, because of the health issues heels can cause.

That’s fair enough. But don’t I have to give staff an allowance for clothing? 

No. You’re under no legal obligation to pay for staff uniforms unless it’s personal protective equipment (PPE).

But it might be worth compensating staff if you require them to wear a particular item of clothing as part of their uniform. If you don’t, this additional cost could bring their wages below the national minimum. 

If it doesn’t cost me in most cases, why wouldn’t I have a formal dress code?

Well, it’s not very trendy these days.

Back in March, Goldman Sachs told their staff that they can ditch their stuffy suits for more relaxed attire. And they’re not the only ones to let go of past workplace traditions.

Virgin Atlantic recently told their female cabin crew that they no longer have to wear makeup to work.

And what do you think prompted these decisions?

The world of work is a different place to what it was a decade ago. So it’s likely that Goldman Sachs and Virgin Atlantic are just trying to modernise their workplaces.

They also know that if they want to recruit new talent, they have to create a more relaxed workplace culture. And a casual clothing policy can be the first step towards that.

So, should I let my staff wear whatever they want?

Hold your horses. A relaxed dress code won’t work for everyone.

If your staff work with customers every day, it might be that formal attire is a better fit for your business. Or, if you want your people to stand out to your customers, you might prefer that they wear a uniform.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to let your staff know what you expect them to wear to work every day (even if it is just jeans and a t-shirt).

Get help to write your dress code policy

Overwhelmed with the thought of writing another policy document? Don’t sweat it.

Our HR advisors are available to help you craft the perfect dress code policy for your business. And if you want to see sample policy templates, they can share those with you too.

For expert help with your documents, call us now on 0800 783 2806.