Dress codes

You must avoid unlawful discrimination in requiring workers to dress or modify their personal appearance in a particular way.

Read the Core guidance to make sure you know what equality law says you must do as an employer.

This does not stop you having a dress code, but you must be careful that any dress code and the way it is applied does not either:

  • directly discriminate against a worker, or indirectly discriminate against a worker and other people who share the same protected characteristic as them, unless its requirements can be objectively justified.

Restrictions on dress, including hairstyles, could be justifiable for health and safety reasons or for other reasons that relate to your organisation’s ethos.

For example:

  • An employer requires long, loose hair to be tied back to avoid danger from machinery in an industrial plant.
  • Staff working in a kitchen must tie their hair back and cover it for hygiene reasons.
  • An employer providing healthcare services stops staff wearing long sleeves or jewellery to reduce the transmission of infection from one patient to another.
  • Staff working in a clothing company’s stores are required to wear clothes made by the company itself to show customers what the clothing looks like when worn.

There are a number of other legitimate reasons for you to have a dress code – for example, a requirement not to wear jeans if a worker is in a customer-facing role or to wear a uniform that identifies staff to members of the public.

The main question to ask is whether what a member of staff wears affects their ability to do their job effectively.

If the answer to this question is ‘yes’, and you want to have a dress code as a result, then you must apply your dress code in a way that avoids unlawful discrimination. 

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Last Updated: 15 Jul 2010