15th July 2013

INFORMATION

UPDATE

 Issue No.  2013/13

 Sentient
              

SUMMER DRESS CODES

Did you notice the week or so of sunshine recently? The weather forecasters have predicted that it will last a bit longer, (we hope so but having heard that before we can expect rain, wind, hail, snow as well).

But let's assume the weather forecasters are correct, in hot weather the issue of dress codes and what is appropriate to wear at work is raised.

During the heat and humidity of the summer period, people prefer to be comfortable and in the hot humid weather, request for fans and air conditioning (if not installed) can be made. This type of weather, combined with thoughts of forthcoming holiday plans could lead employees to adopt a more informal approach to their dress codes.

Most organisations do have dress codes, and it is in these months that employees test employers as to their enforceability.  Does what someone is wearing comply with the dress code? If not, would disciplinary action be justified?  Should the dress code be relaxed?

RELAXATION OF THE DRESS CODE

It is believed that employees are more productive when they are comfortable and that formal dress in hot weather can cause a range of negative aspects.  For example, irritability, inefficiency, lower productivity, dehydration and heat exhaustion. In light of this, many employers will relax formal dress codes to ensure reasonable comfort for workers during hot weather.  However, sloppy or skimpy summer attire can equally affect productivity because the attire can be distracting to co-workers, and there is always the potential risk that it may trigger an act of sexual harassment. Moreover, customers/clients may consider the relaxed dress code to be unprofessional and be deterred form doing business.

Bearing this in mind it is important that you achieve a balance between keeping your workers comfortable and maintaining an appropriate business image.  If you are thinking of relaxing your dress code, you should exercise caution. Ensure that any changes to the dress code are not discriminatory and decide what is and what isn't acceptable.  Among those that are would typically be not acceptable are:

  • Shorts, vests/singlets, t-shirts with printed pictures,
  • Denim, suede or leather
  • Open-toed sandals/flip flops

As always, dress codes should include a requirement that employees dress suitably / appropriately for work.

HEALTH & SAFETY MEASURES

Do remember that Personal Protective Equipment must continue to be worn, where required, irrespective of the weather condition. In addition, personnel who work outside in the summer are potentially at risk of established long term health issues caused by too much exposure to the sun.  Not just skin cancer but sunstroke can become an immediate issue when the employee becomes absent on sick leave. Consequently, you should have rules and safety measures in place that protect personnel working outside.  For example, by keeping themselves covered up and in some circumstances, it may be appropriate for you to provide sun block.

HOW TO IMPLEMENT THE CHANGES

Any changes to the dress code will need to be communicated clearly to all staff. The policy will need to be easily accessible and if it is to be a repeated policy you should think about incorporating it in the contract of Employment / Employee Handbook. Employees must be informed that a failure to adhere to the policy may be treated as a disciplinary matter and of the penalties that may result for non-compliance.  Obviously a key term of the 'relaxed' code would be that such relaxation is just for specific periods as notified by management.

It may be useful to have a note of the staff notice board during the summer months to remind employees of the changes and provide guidance on what is deemed to be inappropriate attire.

Other considerations in the hot weather include enabling cold liquids to be taken, adequate ventilation, air-cooling / air-conditioning facilities - portable units are often effective in localised areas. 

As always, if you have any queries, please call us for advice. 


 

 

 

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The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.

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