Originally published on 28th September 2018
Updated 20th August 2019
Should You Enforce a Staff Uniform Policy?
Millions of employees in the UK are required to wear a staff uniform, often to promote professionalism and portray a consistent brand image of the company. But is a uniform policy always necessary? We decided to explore the pros and cons of implementing a uniform policy — as well as how you can go about writing your own.
Does Your Company Need a Staff Uniform Policy?
The decision on how strictly staff should adhere to a dress code — or whether to implement one at all — may be based on the type of organisation or its culture. Where a high level of security is important, a uniform may be needed, so staff are immediately distinguishable from the general public or those in the company’s care. Hotels, restaurants and high street retailers — where customer engagement is a priority — may also insist on a uniform, to help customers identify who to approach for assistance.
Other companies — such as a design agency or tech company — may not need a staff uniform policy. In these cases, employees are free to dress how they feel most comfortable and creative.
In the organisations that fall somewhere between these two extremes, the objective of a dress code should be to balance professionalism with a degree of liberty. Getting this balance right can often be one of the crucial factors influencing employee satisfaction.
The Advantages of Having a Specific Dress Code or Staff Uniform Policy
There are situations when the dangers or requirements of the job dictate the dress code. In many work environments, wearing hi-vis clothing or PPE may be compulsory due to hazards. It may not be safe to wear a tie or long sleeves near certain machines — or particular shoes, on certain surfaces. Providing a document that dictates the workwear requirements in such environments can protect against potential injuries.
Having a particular set of rules to follow can foster a professional mindset, as workers will associate their uniform with getting into the right frame of mind for work. In this context, staff uniforms can have a healthy impact on employee performance, as they cognitively prime staff and create a separation between work and home.
Strengthening the corporate brand is a key benefit achieved by garment choice, consistency, colours and decoration. We discuss this in a little more detail later on in this article.
Writing a dress code means you can tailor staff uniforms specifically to the job at hand, considering not only professionalism but also practicality and comfort. A dress code or uniform policy can improve employee engagement and job satisfaction by demonstrating the company’s commitment to staff wellbeing and safety.
The Disadvantages of a Strict Dress Code
There are several organisations where a uniform policy is paramount. However, in companies that do not necessarily require a strict dress code, enforcing one could have a negative effect. When safety, practicality and brand image aren’t an issue, imposing a set of rules may be perceived as too stifling. Individuals might feel they are happier and produce better results if they can choose their business wear.
In these circumstances, a strict code could even cause rebellion. Some employees will not take kindly to being told what to wear and may choose to disregard the rules to prove a point. If the policy doesn’t consider the work climate, practicality or a staff member’s comfort, it could foster dissatisfaction among workers and affect productivity. These issues may also arise if you do not communicate the purpose of the policy effectively.
Which Work Dress Code Should You Go For?
Your employees will be familiar with several dress code “categories” — so make your policy easy to understand and define staff uniforms within them. These categories include casual, smart casual, business casual, and business. Each one represents an incline in formality, and you need to establish which is most appropriate for your company.
Work environment and the demands of the job define other categories — which is where functional or protective workwear forms part of the dress code. In this case, workplace factors — such as whether an employee is customer-facing or operating behind the scenes, whether they’re visiting other companies at their premises or working outdoors — determine what they wear.
While it can be tempting to try and enforce the same uniform across all staff, you need to consider what is appropriate for each role. Discussing your policy as part of your recruitment process will ensure new staff members understand and are happy with the uniform requirements before they start.
Providing a Corporate Uniform
If you want to portray a consistent image when marketing, it can be extremely beneficial to enlist the services of a staff uniforms supplier to create bespoke corporate uniforms. Uniforms with a company logo, branded colours or embroidered personalisation customers and other staff members can easily identify employees. One way to achieve this is to go for a bold colour, as your choice of colours can reveal a lot about your brand.
You may wish to introduce variations in the staff uniform based on a team or individual’s role. Differentiation can be an effective way to help customers and staff determine those with specific responsibilities. Perhaps polo-shirts and hoodies will work well for the team on the shop floor — but more formal, branded corporate wear is the look you’d prefer for office-based staff?
Treat staff uniforms as a fantastic opportunity to boost brand awareness and perception. By adding your company logo and other branding elements to the garments, your staff can act as walking advertisements — especially if they regularly work in the public eye. Work with your staff uniform supplier to select appropriate clothing and to design a custom look for your brand.
Providing your staff with the same or similar uniforms can create a positive team working culture and help individuals to feel the organisation values them. Standardised staff uniforms also eliminate the stress of trying to ensure consistent compliance with a vague uniform policy open to many interpretations. You could even involve employees in the decision process so you ensure you choose a uniform your staff will love. Staff who feel they have a voice in the business are also more likely to be engaged and feel loyal to the company.;
How to Write Your Uniform Policy
Start by explaining the purpose of the uniform policy. For example, is it about maintaining a particular brand image for clients or customers — or ensuring the safety of employees? Perhaps it makes staff easily identifiable? It might be all three —or a number of other reasons — but it’s important employees know you aren’t enforcing rules for the sake of it.
Next, explain who the policy applies to. There may be one rule for every member of staff, or you might choose to set different dress codes depending on the role of individual members of the team.
Then you need to list the rules, being as specific as possible to avoid confusion. It’s much easier to enforce a staff uniform policy that relates to garments provided by the company. This way, there’s no scope for misinterpretation, and staff will be more inclined to conform when you give them the clothing.
You may choose to be less specific about the rules if you have opted for a broad dress code such as “smart casual” or “business casual”. You should still define these terms, as the company’s interpretation of these categories may differ from its employees’. Include examples of clothes that fit within your expectations. Make it as difficult as possible for people to misunderstand the rules!
You can also include company expectations regarding personal hygiene, footwear, the cleanliness of garments — and any exceptions to the rules, such as extreme weather conditions or special events.
Lastly, decide how stringently you intend to apply these rules and outline the consequences of employees not following the policy. Potential outcomes could include lenient verbal reminders, or strict measures — ranging from being asked to return home to change to termination of employment for repeat offenders.
However, always keep in mind the purpose of the policy and remember how important your people are. If non-compliance is not negatively impacting the company or the team, taking such draconian measures may be counterproductive.
In summary, your policy should include:
- The purpose
- Who it applies to
- The rules The consequences of not conforming
Avoiding Discrimination in Your Staff Uniform Policy
When writing your policy, it is crucial you consider everything that could prevent an employee from adhering to the rules — such as those who dress a certain way for religious reasons. If particular rules interfere with this — but are crucial for safety reasons — they must be justified and communicated respectfully.
Reasonable adjustments must also be made where necessary for disabilities, illnesses, allergies, and small or large individuals.
The dress code should not differentiate based on gender. There have been cases where women have been asked to go home because of refusing to wear heels, for example. Rules must apply equally to each gender — even if particular garments differ.
If you choose to ask your staff to remove piercings or cover tattoos while at work, you need to justify the reasoning behind it — and communicate this carefully and respectfully.
So, Do You Need a Staff Uniform Policy?
Whatever your business, there’s a good chance a dress code of some description would be helpful to your company and its employees. When deciding on the nature of your policy, consider why you want employees to dress a certain way. What are you trying to achieve? This will help you to determine how strict your policy should be and what it should contain. Staff uniforms can be a great way to build your company’s brand identity while making life simpler for customers and employees. In some organisations, a dress code will be essential for ensuring the safety of employees. Make sure you balance the company objectives against what it is reasonable to expect of employees. A considered and well-written policy can make work life better for everyone.