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Uniforms and dress codes

An employer may have dress requirements to identify staff, for staff protection, or to reflect the type and status of the business.

Uniforms and dress standards for a job should be agreed between the employer and the employee as part of their employment agreement (or sometimes in workplace policies).

Uniforms and dress standards are often covered during the recruitment process but are not always written down. It is useful for both employers and employees to clearly record their agreement in case problems come up later. Once agreement has been made, both parties must keep to it.

If an employee has concerns about dress requirements, they should discuss this with their employer so that the employer is clear about the problem, can respond to the employee, and then they can resolve the problem together.

Uniforms

Who pays for buying and cleaning a uniform needs to be agreed to between the employee and employer. There are many different options, including:

  • the employer provides the uniforms but the employee covers the cleaning costs
  • the employer provides the uniforms and pays the employee a laundry allowance to cover the cleaning cost
  • the employer provides and cleans the employee’s uniform.

Best practice is for employers to provide uniforms for employees. An employer may ask an employee to provide their own uniform where the uniform is generic (eg white collared shirt, black pants and black shoes, or smart black T-shirt and black trousers). In such a case, the employer should make sure that the employee understands and has agreed to this in writing. The employee can choose the clothing label, cost and where they buy it from, plus it remains their own property.

If an employee has to wear a uniform provided by their employer, they should also agree with them where they are allowed to wear it. The employer may want the employee to wear their normal clothes to and from work and only wear their employer supplied uniform while they are working (in which case the employer will need to provide appropriate changing facilities to protect employee safety and privacy). This may be for hygiene reasons (eg if the employee works with food), or to protect the employer's brand.

If the employer is relaxed about the employee wearing their uniform when they’re not working, and the uniform has clearly identifiable branding, then the employee and the employer both need to be aware of any risks of the employee’s behaviour outside of work bringing the employer into disrepute.

Dress code

An employer will often have a dress code for a workplace or part of a workplace, especially if the employees are dealing directly with the public. This may be, for example, professional, smart, business casual, casual etc. Different people can have different ideas about what a dress code means, so it may be useful to provide examples to make sure that the employee and employer have a shared understanding, especially in relation to things such as visible body piercings, tattoos etc.

Name badges

An employee may have to wear a name badge. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires employers to ensure so far as is reasonably practical the health and safety of its workers. This means that sometimes an employer won’t be able make an employee wear a name badge with their full name printed on it if this might put them in the way of actual or potential harm, for example, from members of the public. An employer should also respect their employees’ privacy rights in term of the disclosure of their full names to members of the public. If an employee is concerned about having their first name on a name badge, they should discuss this with their employer, one option may be to agree to the employee using an agreed alternative name at work if they deal with the public.

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