Many companies have dress codes to ensure that everyone’s appearance meets a particular standard. However, these policies aren’t revisited often, and specific requirements may be outdated or even discriminatory.

In many cases, dress codes disproportionately target women, especially if items like high heels, skirts, or makeup are required. However, they can also be unfair to men, such as when women are allowed to wear skirts, but men aren’t permitted to wear workplace-appropriate shorts. To make sure your dress code is fair, each requirement needs to apply universally to all employees, regardless of gender, while simultaneously being respectful of their health. Here’s how to get started.

Define the Level of “Professional Dress”

How “professional” a dress code needs to be is largely dependent on the environment, industry, and customer interactions. Certain offices have particularly stringent policies based on the nature of the work involved. For example, a law firm may consider business suits or their equivalent a requirement while industrial companies may require (or ban) clothing items based on safety.

Before you can create a better policy, you need to define what the dress code needs to accomplish, as well as what is considered workplace appropriate.

Understand the Health Implications

While many people wear high heels regularly, there are those who find these shoes painful to wear and others may even suffer health consequences, including pinched nerves, capsulitis, plantar fasciitis, and more. Similarly, some people with sensitive skin or eyes may find makeup highly irritating while those who have scent-sensitivities or allergies might consider having to wear perfume or cologne intolerable, if not dangerous.

Generally, requiring people to sustain a suitably groomed and otherwise appropriate appearance based on the environment isn’t an issue, just as mandating certain basic hygiene provisions isn’t often cause for concern. But, before you set a particular clothing or other requirements, it’s wise to determine if there are any potential health risks associated with giving people no other option.

Consider Your Culture

Some women find being forced to wear high heels, makeup, or skirts to be highly discriminatory, as they can be seen as an effort to sexualize or exploit women, even if that isn’t the true intention. With diversity and inclusion in the workplace being particularly important in today’s business world, creating a situation where some of your employees may automatically be uncomfortable can be harmful to your culture and may even negatively impact retention.

While having dress code standards is understandable, it is best to review any potential impacts to your culture. If one group feels unnecessarily singled out by any particular policy, there could be consequences for including it, so it may be wise to either reconsider that tenant or restructuring it so that it applies universally to all employees.

By taking the time to review your dress code, you can create a more comfortable and inclusive environment that still meets the standards of your business. If you would like to learn more or are looking to hire a new team member, the professionals at TempStaff can help. Contact us today to see how our expertise can work for you.



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