Is it time to ditch the formal workplace dress code?

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

Wednesday, May 05, 2021
2 min read

Dark wash jeans and a grey t-shirt. 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 interact 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 limitations.

Your dress code policy must not be in violation of the employment standards legislation in your province. It must not discriminate against any staff member on the grounds protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Your dress policy should be in accordance with the health and safety legislation. It should be uniformly applicable to all your employees irrespective of their gender or race. 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 if you deduct the cost of a uniform from a worker’s wages, you must get the employee’s consent in writing before doing so.

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.

The world of work is a different place to what it was a decade ago. Most companies are trying to modernise their workplaces by relaxing rules around attire.

Businesses today know that to attract new talent, they should 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).

Overwhelmed with the thought of writing another policy document?

Don’t sweat it. Get help to write your dress code policy.

Our HR advisors are available to help you craft the perfect dress code policy for your business. For expert help with your documents, call us now on (1) 888-220-4924.


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