A dress code is usually contained within the Staff Code of Conduct or handbook. Some are a detailed – list of “Do’s and Don’ts”, others prefer to have a more general framework. While much is common sense and many staff automatically follow reasonable practice without even realising it, it is important to have some clear parameters to enable inappropriate dress to be tackled. These include:
The general parameters when thinking about dress codes are that:
- appropriate attire for the role;
- clothing is not likely to be viewed as revealing, sexually provocative or offensive;
- attire is free of any political or otherwise offensive or contentious slogans or logos;
- workwear is not deemed to be discriminatory and is culturally sensitive;
- outfits should not place them or others at risk and complies with any health and safety requirements.
However, it’s important to challenge your own prejudices and preconceptions when thinking about dress codes. One person’s “smart” is another’s “casual” and what’s acceptable changes over time. Tie wearing is a good example – once pretty much mandatory in many work environments, a much more relaxed approach is not taken by most organisations.
Whatever you decide, it is important that your employees understand the need to follow the dress code. As well as ensuring that your staff are representing your school in an appropriate way, there are also potential health and safety issues from failing to follow the dress code.
As a manager, you are accountable for ensuring that the dress code is observed at all times by your staff. Managers should ensure new employees are aware of the dress code and its requirements. This should be done during the recruitment process and should be reiterated at induction.
Appropriate & Inappropriate Workwear
This next section will look at examples of clothing that might be seen as acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace.
However, the balance always needs to be struck between freedom of expression/personal style (including religious freedoms), practicality and professional image and safe practice. It is always wise to consult with staff before imposing dress codes and to be mindful of personal sensitivities. For example, leggings may generally not be preferred but may be the most comfortable and practical wear for certain body shapes. Similarly, allowance needs to be made for sensitivities to heat (everything from menopausal women to seasonal variations), financial position – some staff cannot afford an expansive “work” wardrobe and of course cultural issues.
In addition, you must also keep in mind that there are occasions for flexibility e.g. outdoor/adventure visits and activities, the age range of children (e.g. do staff have to sit on the floor), sports etc. Certain activities will also require protective clothing (e.g. caretaking, cleaning, technicians, catering etc.) Similarly, the dress code may be relaxed on training days or informal activities such as fetes. Examples of appropriate clothing might include a mixture of;
- Blouses/shirts (long or short sleeve)
- Suitable length skirts (i.e. a minimum of knee length) or trousers
- Smart plain T-shirts/polo shirts
- Jumpers, jackets, dresses, business suits, ties
Examples of workwear that you might not consider appropriate include;
- Leisure shorts unless for PE or sports
- Tracksuits unless for PE or sports
- Offensive badges, emblems or logos on clothes
- Indoor wearing of baseball caps
- See through clothing
- Clothing with tears, holes and rips or that is not clean
- Low cut tops, crop/vest tops etc.
Footwear is part of the overall dress and is generally expected to be safe, sensible, in good repair, smart and clean. Footwear is also important for safety and some footwear for example flip flops might not generally be acceptable. What about high heels – is this a safety concern for all or particular roles? Some roles may require specific footwear e.g. steel toe caps.
You might also consider whether you want to allow staff to wear trainers other than for sport?
As always particular circumstances may need to be taken into account and exceptions made for example someone with swollen felt due to health or pregnancy.
It is not just clothing that should be covered by a dress code. Other issues might need to consider – some more controversial than others: Tattoos
- Are you happy for tattoos to be visible ? Maybe except where they are deemed to be offensive or inappropriate in which case you may require them to be covered.
Jewellery and Piercing
- Jewellery is generally acceptable so long as it does not present a health and safety hazard. Jewellery/piercings should also be removed where they are a risk to health and safety e.g. during PE. What about other facial piercings – are these acceptable?
- While generally not an issue there are potential health and safety issues e.g when handling food or operating machinery hair must be tied back/covered. Also consider whether you be happy if an employee died their hair bright orange ? If not then your dress code should make this clear.