Ten Top tips: Creating an inclusive dress code

Worried about what to wear to work? Make sure your employees understand what’s expected of them by creating an inclusive dress code. Gary Cattermole, Director of award-winning employee engagement and employee research provider, The Survey Initiative, offers his advice.

  1. Stories about women being forced into wearing high heels in the workplace have hit the headlines in recent years; by developing an inclusive dress code you’ll be best placed not to gain any unwanted press attention.  
  • 2. Consider your company’s core values when drafting your dress code. Are you a smart professional outfit or a young trendy start-up? Defining who you are, will help you opt for smart suits or jeans and trainers.
  • 3. Consult with your staff to understand what they want to wear to work. Start your conversation at the top and discuss standards of dress with your CEO. Be clear what is expected of employees at different levels of the organisation. What may be suitable for your leadership team, may not suit those on reception or in a back office.
  • 4. Define your dress code, if you opt for a ‘smart casual’ policy, set-up workshops so that everyone is clear on what constitutes the smart casual look. Never underestimate how wide people’s views are on this matter, which will be affected by a person’s age, background and faith.
  • 5. Staff uniform is a must for the majority of public-facing employees. A uniform helps customers easily identify staff and it ensures companies can maintain or strengthen their brand presence. Here all employees should be offered non-gender specific garments, such as health professionals and security personnel offered trousers etc.
  • 6. Health and safety rules! Depending on your line of business and your employees’ roles, many staff members will be required to wear certain garments due to health and safety requirements. When it comes to health and safety there is no code, garments are obligatory. However, you can offer employees a choice of clothing to wear. For example: fast food operatives could be offered a choice of two-three different options of a mix and match collection. Allowing staff to choose what they feel most comfortable to wear really helps to boost productivity.
  • 7. Inclusivity is essential in creating a dress code for all. All employees must be free to express their own cultural and religious beliefs. Also, consider employees within the LGBTQ community – could your dress code or uniform put certain sections of the community off working for you? Do you have policies in place for someone who’s transgender, or on their transformation journey?
  • 8. Don’t just look at what to wear when developing your dress code. Many employees will assume that corporates are very tolerant about tattoos and body piercings. Be clear what you consider to be appropriate for public-facing employees, and if necessary be open that you may request employees to remove piercings or cover tattoos while at work. 
  • 9. Share the code with all employees to ensure everyone understands what is expected of them. Be very graphic about what is and what isn’t expected and offer staff photographs to educate what it and what is not acceptable in the workplace. Add the company dress code to your employee handbook to ensure all new recruits are up to speed on the dress code too.
  • 10. Make sure you understand the legal side of creating a dress code. If necessary, discuss your dress code with a company lawyer or refer to ACAS’ website (www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4953), which offers lots of helpful tips and latest legal advice on dress code.

To discover more about creating highly engaged and productive employees, visit www.surveyinitiative.co.uk.

Author: Editorial Team

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