Casual clothing gets a dressing down at work

Employers are increasingly telling their staff what not to wear as the decline of the business suit creates uncertainty over dress codes.

While standards of attire are becoming less formal, the policing of what is and is not acceptable clothing for the office is being tightened up, according to a survey of 66 UK companies and public sector bodies by Personnel Today’s sister publication, IRS Employment Review.

More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of dress code policies now have the force of the employment contract behind them. This is 15 per cent up on the previous IRS survey (2003).

Less than one-third (31 per cent) of employers with formal dress code policies grant dispensations on religious grounds, despite legislation that may leave them open to claims of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail, said: “We still don’t know how far legislation outlawing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and religion or belief will affect organisations with workplace dress policies.

“Some employers are already reviewing their dress codes to ensure that they do not inadvertently lead to direct or indirect discrimination on these grounds.”

Most employers (73 per cent) said enhancing the external image of the company was the most commonmonly cited reason for having a dress code.

This was followed by:

– Reinforcing internal company culture – chosen by 64 per cent of employers

– Health and safety – 51 per cent

– Practicality – 33 per cent

– To distinguish/identify employees -20 per cent

– Hygiene – 15 per cent.

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