Summertime Could Mean Relaxed Clothing Rules for Businesses

July 6, 2018|

Summer tends to bring a more relaxed attitude around many workplaces. People are coming and going on vacation, work may slow down, calendars are not as full. Maybe you have younger temporary workers or interns who would otherwise be in school.

There also tends to be a relaxing of the dress code during this time, particularly in the heat of an Augusta summer. So, how can employers walk the line between business casual and inappropriate in the workplace?

First, it is perfectly fine to have employee dress and appearance codes. These codes can address minimum standards of dress (e.g., coat and tie for men, dresses and closed-toed shoes for women) as well as grooming and appearance standards, including for hair, piercings and tattoos.

Companies can set these standards, constrained only by the legal requirements not to discriminate based on sex, race, national origin or religion. Whatever the policy, it must be applied consistently across the workforce, and accommodations need to be made for appropriate religious, race or national origin requests.

If, as a company, you decide to relax the dress code during the summer, or even if you are implementing a “casual Friday” type of policy that might run throughout the year, how do you communicate to employees what is appropriate and what is not? Many companies use examples such as “no spaghetti-strap tops for women” or “no open-toe shoes for men,” maybe no flip-flops.

I recently read a good idea. Have the employees submit suggestions of things they do not want to see at work — sweatpants, short shorts, yoga pants, etc. Having the employees participate helps give them buy-in on the policy.

Along with dress and grooming codes must come training for managers on how to deal with employees who violate that code. The first rule is, do not call someone down about their dress or grooming in public. That discussion should happen in private.

Second, make no comments about that person’s body (e.g., “You are just too buxom to wear something like that at work”).

Third, if possible have a manager of the same sex as the employee do the counseling.

With all the hassle of trying to figure out what is appropriate, why even bother implementing a relaxed dress code? Because it is a very popular benefit that basically costs the company nothing.

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