It seems a bit ironic writing a blog post about summer dress codes given the inclement weather we’ve been having but adopting a coherent dress code for the summer months is a difficult and time-consuming aspect of compiling your employee’s corporate policy information.

The majority of employers have a dress code policy concerning clothing requirements but for most, it’s basic common sense.

Relaxed summer dress codes make working conditions more bearable, especially on really hot days and even the commute into the office can feel like you’ve done a hard day’s work but there are some simple ways in which you can ease the unpleasantness of working in a boiling hot office that won’t affect productivity –

  • Let your staff know that it’s OK to come in dressed less formally, as long as what they’re wearing is appropriate
  • Ensure a plentiful supply of drinking water
  • Consider hiring in some portable air-con units
  • A cool, hydrated workforce will be less lethargic, more creative and therefore more productive

If you are a client-facing business, such as recruitment or estate agency, you could reasonably expect your staff not to wear jackets and ties however they still need to maintain a professional outlook. On the flip side, if you are a creative business like advertising or design, you may be happy with your staff wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, given that it’s appropriate for those particular industries.

Problems arise when you’re trying to put together a dress code policy that’s equal for all employees.

For men, the policy is usually fairly simple –

  • They don’t have to wear a jacket or tie
  • They can wear trousers of a lighter fabric, such as linen, but not jeans or shorts
  • They can’t wear flip-flops, sandals or trainers

However, making specific requests of female staff could potentially be deemed as discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, since by restricting their clothing choices, females are suffering a detriment on account of their sex.

In a poll taken by workplace experts Croner, a few interesting facts emerged –

  • 55% of employees said women ‘get away’ with more casual clothes that men to stay cool
  • Only 8% suggested that the weather plays no part in what they wore to work
  • 25% thought that that both men and women equally disregard summer dress codes

It may sound like a seemingly trivial aspect of your corporate policy but an unequal dress code can affect staff morale, increase tension and in certain cases, could lead to escalating complaints.

The key is to keep the dress code policy as simple as possible –

  • Adopt a dress code that is appropriate for your industry
  • You can require staff who come into contact with the general public or other organisations to conform to a dress code that maintains the public perception and image of your company and helps to facilitate it’s business
  • Act reasonably by balancing the rights of your staff with the needs of your business
  • Make sure the principles of your code are right so that they genuinely reflect a core business need and are neither discriminatory nor arbitrary
  • The dress code needs to be made clear and understood by all staff who are expected to abide by it
  • The code must be enforced in a consistent and proportionate manner

As always, we are on hand to answer any questions you have and to give you the most appropriate advice you’ll need.

Don’t forget, we have the best IT, accountancy & finance, sales & marketing and admin & clerical jobs, as well as the best recruits so contact us today.

We’ll see you in July.

Ben Sweeting & Michelle Scott – Directors, Asset Resourcing

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