Workplace summer dress codes

Robbie Sinclair

I was amused by a tweet from a man complaining that men had to wear shirts, jackets, trousers, socks and closed-toe shoes at work while women could float around in the office in sandals and dresses. It made me smile, particularly as I once wore smart shorts to the office on dress-down Friday and it generated more comments than I cared for.

Seriously though, this can be an issue for employers, particularly in this hot weather.

Employers must apply the same standards of dress to men and women or other protected characteristics, although they may have different requirements. For example, employers may advise their staff that they can be more casual in the hot weather, permitting short sleeve dresses and shirts, as long as they still look professional. What footwear is acceptable will depend on each employer and the nature of their business but it is common to see a ban on flip flops in most policies. It therefore makes sense to give generic guidance to staff without being too prescriptive. By doing this, employers can apply a neutral standard that it is still linked to a business need or other business-relevant need such as working in hot weather. Employers may also want to show some additional flexibility when temperatures are, like last week, well into the 30s – us poor men!!!

Read our previous blog on an employer’s requirement for a woman to wear high heels, which found its way to the front page of most newspapers. ACAS guidance on the subject can be found here.