It is now widely recognised that it is lawful for organistions to have a dress code in order to protect their business reputation and image but dress codes can have their own hazards and employers should consider several factors prior to their introduction.

Firstly, companies should ensure that their dress code does not breach any discrimination legislation or offend individuals of a particular group. Discrimination laws protect many characteristics and a stringent dress code may breach possible race, religious or sex discrimination laws. A high profile case against BA resulted in their “no jewellery” policy being reviewed to allow employees to wear crucifixes at work. Other items not permitted like nose piercings, headscarves and veils could be examples of indirect discrimination unless a company can objectively justify their exclusion.

Secondly, if an employee is dismissed due to a dress code breach, a tribunal will consider the employer’s reasons for imposing the code. Areas for consideration could be: health and safety; whether the dress code is a contractual requirement and applied flexibly enough to take account of religious or cultural needs; whether the employee has contact with third parties; and whether the employee knew and understood the rules. Finally, if employers wish to have a dress code and a less formal option for the summer, they should consider the business rationale and the appropriateness of this to the employer’s business. The key message to help protect against any potential tribunal claims is to ensure that employees’ dress does not go beyond what is essential for the role.


  • Ensure the dress code is communicated to all employees, outlining the consequences of non-adherence
  • Be clear and avoid jargon, defining descriptions like ‘smart casual’
  • Consider dress requirements allowing flexibility for employees with particular religious or cultural needs
  • Apply the dress code equally to all employees (do not differentiate between the sexes unless absolutely necessary)
  • Consider the impact of national dress/ football shirts during national events and be clear on what is or is not permitted
  • Reflect on business requirements and contact with third parties
  • Ensure the code is applied fairly and consistently
  • Review the appropriateness of the code on a regular basis
  • If in doubt, consult with your employees to gain an understanding of any potential impact

Find out how we can help you, call Anita Wynne on 01438 747747 or email