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Dress codes in the workplace

BY Fiona McBeath
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

Dress codes in the workplace are a hot subject right now. A petition set up by supporters of Nicola Thorp, the receptionist sent home for refusing to wear high heels, has reached more than 100,000 signatures. This came shortly after a photo of a Canadian waiter’s mangled feet after a shift in heels went viral. We’ve compiled some useful dress code tips to keep you right.  

Most employers have a dress code in the workplace.  This may be to communicate a corporate image, to ensure customers can identify employees, to drive sales in the retail sector or to comply with health and safety.  Firstly, if you want to adopt a dress code, make sure you put a policy in place and communicate it to all of your staff.  The policy is an important document to the company and non-compliance could result in a disciplinary hearing.  Your policy should:

  • Make reasonable stipulations.  Think of the reasoning behind all requirements to ensure they are necessary for your business and its message. 
  • Should apply to women and men equally.  Different requirements may apply e.g. all men must wear a tie. Although a stipulation to wear high heels is legal, it is certainly out of kilter with current opinion and it is unlikely to compromise a company’s corporate image.
  • Make clear any exceptions to the rules that apply e.g. charity days.  Make sure you stipulate in the policy that permission is needed from a line manager. 
  • Treat religious dress with caution.  Employers should allow individuals to wear religious dress other an for a genuine business or safety reason.  However, it is advisable that you discuss this with your employees to reach a compromise and allow them to manifest their faith without damaging your corporate image or breaking health and safety laws. 
  • Avoid other forms of unlawful discrimination. 

If you have any concerns with your dress code policy, contact your Employment Solicitor for more guidance.  

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