The Law on Dress Codes | LegalVision UK (2024)

The Law on Dress Codes | LegalVision UK (1)

The Law on Dress Codes | LegalVision UK (2)

By Clare Farmer

Updated on
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Table of Contents
  • What Is a Dress Code?
  • Dress Codes and Unlawful Discrimination
  • Dress Codes and Health and Safety
  • Paying for Uniforms at Work
  • Drafting a Dress Code Policy
  • Key Takeaways
  • Frequently Asked Questions

As an employer, you may decide that it is appropriate for your staff to wear a dress code for work or even a uniform at work. Perhaps you believe the dress code better represents your business brand or is necessary to ensure the safety of your workers. If so, you may find that some employees object to the dress policy for various reasons. This article will set out the law on dress codes in the workplace.

What Is a Dress Code?

A dress code in the workplace forms part of your employee policy and details how your employees should dress while they are in the workplace or otherwise on the job.

You may have various reasons for wanting to implement dress codes in the workplace. For example, the dress code may influence your corporate branding. Alternatively, it may be for health and safety reasons, or simply to allow your staff to identify each other quickly.

Examples of dress codes are:

  • ensuring long hair is tied back;
  • the use of protective clothing when carrying out hazardous work; and/or
  • smart wear such as suits or typical formal office wear.

Although referred to interchangeably, a dress code and a work uniform can differ. For example, if you ask your staff to wear black trousers to work, this can be a dress code, but if you ask them to wear a t-shirt with your brand logo on it, this can be a uniform.

Dress Codes and Unlawful Discrimination

As an employer, you are not legally required to have a dress code or work uniform in your workplace. In fact, there is no specific work uniform or dress code law in the UK. However, legal rules determine your dress code policy when you choose to insist on a uniform at work.

If you require your staff to wear a dress code for work, it is illegal if it discriminates based on any of the nine protected characteristics. These are:

  • race;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation;
  • age;
  • pregnancy and maternity;
  • disability;
  • marriage or civil partnership;
  • religion or belief; and
  • gender reassignment.

Below are some examples of where a dress code policy may be unlawful:

  • obligating your female employees to wear something different than your male employees — the work uniform must apply to both men and women equally;
  • where you have an employee with a disability, failing to make a reasonable adjustment to your work uniform where necessary.; and
  • where the dress code policy conflicts with an employee’s religious belief.
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Dress Codes and Health and Safety

As an employer, you have a duty of care regarding your employees’ health, safety, and well-being at work. When requiring your staff to wear a specific work dress or abide by a dress code, you must ensure that it does not compromise their health and safety.

For example, a policy that obligates dress shoes in the workplace may interfere with the health and safety of your employees.

Paying for Uniforms at Work

If you do require your staff to wear a uniform at work, you legally have to pay for this unless you need them to wear it because it is for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE is a legal requirement now for all people working for you where there is a health and safety risk, rather than just for your employees. Where your dress code is in place due to PPE, the following applies:

  • you are not legally entitled to request payment for the uniform;
  • your staff must return the uniform when they leave employment with you; and
  • subject to the terms of any employment contracts, you may be entitled to deduct the value of any unreturned PPE from their wages.

If you do not intend to pay for your worker’s uniform, you must state this in your employment contract. You cannot make any deductions from your employee’s wages otherwise.

You may ask your staff to pay upfront or allow deductions of their salaries. However, you must offset any deductions from their salary. This amount must not be less than the minimum wage.

The Law on Dress Codes | LegalVision UK (3)

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Drafting a Dress Code Policy

As with any aspect of your workplace policies, your dress code should be clearly drafted. The law generally presumes that unless any employee has a legitimate reason otherwise, they should comply with the policy.

Here are some points to include in your dress code policy:

  • the purpose of the policy (e.g. to promote the brand or for health and safety);
  • who your dress code applies to (e.g. to customer-facing roles only);
  • specific details about the dress code (e.g. suit and tie or equivalent); and
  • any consequences for failing to comply with the policy.

As with all your workplace policies, your dress code policy should be communicated to your staff and be easily accessible.

Key Takeaways

You may want your workers to wear a dress code at work. This could be for different reasons, such as health and safety, or to promote your corporate branding. There is no specific law on dress code at work, but many laws affect this, so you should ensure you are aware of them. For example, your workers requiring PPE must be provided with this at your expense. Also, if your dress code discriminates based on any of the nine protected characteristics, it is unlawful, such as if your dress code does not allow your staff to wear their religious symbol.

If you need help understanding what you need to know about requiring staff to wear dress codes, ourexperienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. So call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit ourmembership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a workplace dress code?

A dress code at work is what you require your staff to wear at work, such as a work uniform or wearing clothing of a particular colour palette. You should ensure that any dress code policy is contained in your workplace policies.

Is a dress code at work a legal requirement?

You do not have to create a dress code policy by law.

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The Law on Dress Codes | LegalVision UK (2024)
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