Majority of dress codes bar shorts and crop tops at work

One-third of dress codes place no restraints on body piercing.

Shorts and crop tops are most likely to be banned at work compared with other items of clothing, an XpertHR survey has revealed.

Among the 426 organisations with dress codes, 94% either veto or restrict the wearing of shorts by male employees, and the same proportion ban or restrict crop tops for women.

The research, which covers 578 employers and 588 different dress codes, also found that one-third of employers relax their appearance guidelines if there is unusually hot or cold weather. Half will also make an exception on special charity events, or “dress-down” days.

Where men are concerned, religious headwear is least likely to be an issue (forbidden to some degree by 19.9% of dress codes). For women, trousers are least likely to cause concern (21.3%).

A “smart casual” – or “business casual” – approach is most likely to be favoured by employers, and 41.5% describe their policies as such.

Just 17.7% ask employees to wear formal business clothes, and in one-fifth (21.6%) of cases, the dress code relates to uniforms or overalls.

Most organisations (87.8%) use their clothing and appearance policy to enhance or protect their external image.

Other reasons for having a dress code include: health and safety (58.6%); reinforcing internal culture (56.9%); practicality (41.2%); and hygiene (28.7%).

Just over two-thirds of organisations believe that the enforcement of appearance guidelines has helped to enhance the external image of the organisation. However, a higher proportion (81.1%) say that it has helped to set workplace culture standards.

A quarter of respondents said one of the downsides of having a dress code was a fear that they would cause offence to employees. That said, only 2.6% have received a complaint that their code is discriminatory.

The majority of respondents have taken measures to ensure their dress code does not fall foul of legislation outlawing discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. For instance, organisations have:

  • avoided references to the banning of garments or accessories that can be construed as religious (53.9%);
  • kept the code flexible or made it clear that allowances will be made for religious requirements (40.9%);
  • consulted with employees about the policy (21.9%); or
  • consulted with legal experts (21.9%).

Other findings include:

  • tattoos are allowed without restrictions for both men and women in four in ten dress codes;
  • one-third of dress codes place no restraints on body piercings; and
  • almost all the organisations (96.4%) consider their dress code to be a success, while 43.3% say there are no downsides to having one.
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