Many professions come with a dress code or uniform – lawyers generally wear suits, doctors generally wear white coats or scrubs, police, fireman etc. Uniforms are prescriptive and ensures everyone is dressed exactly the same way, whereas dress code policies achieve similar appearances between employees, but the specific items worn are not identical.1
Having a dress code is generally seen as bringing consistency to the workplace and there are a number of good reasons for your business to have an employee dress code.2 You may want your employees who interact with customers to appear professional and welcoming at all times, and provide guidelines on how to be presentable in those situations. Safety is another good reason – employees who do labour-intensive work may need to wear protective clothing or gear to keep themselves and others safe, such as construction and food preparation.3 A dress code also enables your business to define exactly what’s appropriate for employees to wear in the workplace.
A multi-generational workplace is inevitably a complicated one, and different generations have different perspectives on what they want to wear in the workplace. People of different ages typically have different perspectives on the world, and they disagree on the most fundamental issues. They dress differently, eat differently and travel differently. And more pertinently, they work differently. These generations seem to be more protective over identity and style, and are opposed to being told what to wear.
Research has discovered that more than 1 in 10 people aged 18-24 said that they had considered quitting their job due to a strict dress code.2 On the other hand, older generations in the workplace do not share the same strong views. Only 7% of those aged 55 and over said they would consider leaving their jobs because of the dress code.
If businesses leave dress codes open to interpretation, outfits will range from jeans and T-shirts, to suit and ties. If you do decide to implement a dress code policy, consider the following points3:
- One size doesn’t fit all: Your policy can have different requirements for different teams. Employees who interact with customers can have more stringent dress requirements than those who work behind the scenes if needed;
- Don’t use ambiguous language: What’s the difference between “business casual” and “casual”? Give specific examples of what type of attire are acceptable;
- Put it on paper: Your dress code policy should be clearly explained, documented and made easily available to your employees. Ensure that it’s explained to new starters so that they’re appropriately dressed on their first day.
You would also need to be especially careful that your dress code policy doesn’t discriminate against any of your employees.2 Some employees would wear certain apparel or refrain from wearing certain apparel due to their religious beliefs, and a business should reasonably accommodate this to avoid religious discrimination. Another type of discrimination that could occur is disability discrimination – businesses need to try to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities when implementing a dress code policy in cases where it’s almost impossible for some employees to conform to the policy you’ve outlined.
As the world of work changes around us and new generations enter the workforce – the shift in attitudes towards dress codes means it’s more important than ever to tune in to your people and customers.
Impellam Group work across a variety of sectors from professional services, legal & science to education and healthcare. So we understand the needs of each business differ, so taking the time to review your dress code and the impact it has on your people and customers is a great place to start.