Your guide to dresscodes at work

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July 11, 2013 by ginafashionistar


Image via Flickr creative commons from jenny-bee

Whether you are picking up your workwear at Makro or are having it supplied to you by your boss, you have rights and there are certain things you should expect.

Although there is no law stopping an employer enforcing a dress code, they must avoid discrimination. Restrictions on hair and appearance can only be made on the grounds of health and safety or other seasons that conflict with the ethos of your employer.

For example, if you are working in an industrial workshop or floor, you may be required to tie your hair back to prevent it getting caught in machinery – in the same way you may require a hairnet when working with food. At the same time, your boss can legitimately request you do not wear jeans or informal wear – whether you are in a customer-facing role or not.

The cases when dress code is applied more strictly to men than women, or the other way around, could be described as direct discrimination. Although it has been established by law that men and women do not have to have the same uniform – but in those cases, ‘conventional standards of dress and appearance’ must apply.

Similar restrictions apply to religious beliefs, where a person is required to dress a specified way, wear certain jewellery or wear their hair a certain way.

According to ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service): “If it is practical and safe to do so, staff may welcome the opportunity to wear clothing consistent with their religion.

“Where organisations adopt a specific dress code, careful consideration should be given to the proposed code to ensure it does not conflict with the dress requirements of some religions.

“General dress codes which have the effect of conflicting with religious requirements may constitute indirect discrimination unless they can be justified for example, on the grounds of health and safety.”

If your health and safety is at risk, your employer must provide you with the correct equipment free of charge. Personal protective equipment (PPE) can include anything from safety helmets, hats and gloves, to high-vis jackets, harnesses and footwear. In the case of a religious requirement conflicting with health and safety procedures, an exception can be made. For example, the Employment Act 1989 outlined turban-wearing Sikhs working on construction sites are exempt from the need to wear head protection.

It is also up to the employer to determine which PPE is adequate for the job at hand. Should you have any concerns over the quality or suitability of the equipment provided, you should raise this issue with a supervisor or union official. It is also the employer’s responsibility to train and instruct you as to how the safety equipment is properly used – you should also be advised as to why it is needed.

Should there ever be an issue with dress code, a responsible employer should always be willing to discuss the issue with you. If it is a requirement through law, then there will always be legal guidelines to cite as an example. Regardless of the issue, your health and safety should come first.

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