Can you tell an employee what to wear?

Do you have a written Dress Code Policy in your practice? Maybe you have just a general verbal agreement on what “is” and “is not” allowed? What if you want to provide guidelines to your staff on what you would like them to wear, are you legally allowed to?

The short answer is yes, you can. Providing the standards you outline are reasonable, are appropriate for the allied health service you offer, and meet any work, health safety requirements.

You may wish to stipulate in your dress code policy that staff wear a particular shirt you provide with the practice logo on it. You may outline that they are required to wear a name badge during work hours. There may be certain footwear that you wish to specify (for example, no open-toed shoes or sandals). Your dress code policy will potentially be based on both business branding and safety standards.

There is also another angle to consider – what about things that you want to specify that are exclusions in your practice? Do you want to include some guidelines around things like tattoos and body piercings?

A dress code can, therefore, cover not only what is expected, but also what is excluded not only clothing but also footwear, jewellery, tattoos, and piercings.

Things to keep in mind:

When you are writing your dress code policy, there are some things to consider to ensure you are not entering discrimination, equal opportunity or health and safety issues. These are all legislated areas in business that you need to keep in mind. For example:

  • Have you outlined different dress standards based on gender?
  • Have you excluded staff who wear clothing related to their ethnic customs/religion? If so, are there additional grounds based on safety or other business requirements?
  • If you stipulate certain standards based on work, health, safety, is your policy realistic and directly related to protecting the health and safety of the worker? (e.g., no jewellery, tied up hair etc.)
  • Have you checked the Fair Work Act relevant award for your staff to ensure you are providing the right allowances for staff with regard to uniforms and protective equipment if applicable?

The overall implementation of the policy should also be considered. You need to ensure that the policy is applied consistently and in a manner that is not discriminatory. For example, the guidelines in the policy are not relaxed for one particular staff member. It should convey guidelines that are applicable to all employees, regardless of gender, age or religion.

Management, Staffing, Policies, Branding

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