Workplace Appearance, Rights and Responsibilities

Managing employees’ dress code and appearance at work can be a difficult task. It is important to have clear policies in place that define expected workplace standards and clearly outline the consequences of failing to adhere to such standards.

The first step is to ensure that all employees are advised on the accepted dress code and appearance standards at the commencement of their employment. Employees should also be provided with their own copies of the relevant policies that are in place. Employers retain the right to demand a certain standard of appearance from their employees, however this must be made clear before the employment commences.

#1. Body Art in the Workplace

Depending on the industry in which your company operates, you may or may not accept body art in the workplace. Some common examples of body art include tattoos and piercings, whilst other less common modifications include branding, stretching, scalpelling, subdermal implants and shaping. Since many forms of body art are permanent and some may well be for religious or cultural reasons, approaching your employees about this issue should be treated delicately. Most employers simply require that employees cover up body art where possible, especially in customer-facing positions.

#2. Common Dress Standards Breaches

The dress code standards that you set out for your employees are not just to protect the appearance and reputation of your company, but also to ensure that workers are fully protected against any possible accidents on the job. For example, you may require employees to wear protective shoes, high-visibility clothing or a hard hat, depending on the type of industry in which your company operates. Some common breaches of dress standards include inappropriate footwear, low-cut or see-through tops, dirty, dishevelled clothing or uniforms, or failure to wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In terms of appearance, common issues include bad personal hygiene, overuse of perfume or aftershave, facial hair or failing to tie back long hair in some cases.

#3. Dealing with Breaches

When an employee breaches the dress code or appearance standards, it’s important to handle the issue in a sensitive, compassionate manner. This is especially important in cases of poor hygiene, for example, where employees may be upset by your comments. Approaching an employee regarding their dress or appearance should be done privately and reflect the workplace policies in place. If necessary, offer the employee the option to have a third-party present for support.

The way your employees present themselves is representative to your company so do keep these tips in mind.


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