An article in the Australian Human Resources online magazine HRMonthly references a case in the UK where a company issued instructions to female customer facing staff listing a range of requirements.
The fact that an instruction was issued to women only makes this a discriminatory action – because gender is a protected attribute under the legislation.
You can read the article here http://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/workplace-grooming-dangers/?utm_source=HRM&utm_medium=e%2Dnews&utm_campaign=HRM+announcement
Dress codes have been challenging for many companies as it is important to maintain the brand and image of the company, and yet tackling issues such as personal hygiene and body odour can be very difficult.
A general dress code policy is often seen as a “safe” way of informing staff about expectations for standards of dress and hygiene, yet this UK example highlights some key lessons
1. A dress code is a standard that applies to employees in particular roles, regardless of their gender.
The content of the policy may be listed toi include issues that are relevant to one gender only, however this is becoming more and more risky.
Rather than stating that women should not wear “garish make up” the statement could be a general one relating to “no excessive make up”
2. A dress code can only be enforced when it is clearly and genuinely relevant. As society changes and norms move, company managers must be very diligent to make sure that the standards are actually those of the customer base and not just “the way we have always done things”
Consider tattoos which 25 years ago were not commonplace and reflect how many people you know wit tattoos.
3. Policies and codes need to be reviewed regularly and reviewed in depth to ensure their continued relevance and meaning
A policy that does not truly add value meets the definition of bureaucracy adn also places you and your firm at risk of discrimination.
An independent review can be helpful here as a fresh set of eyes may ask questions that you would not.
Employing staff does have its complexities, however this doe snot mean that you cannot do anything. It does mean that, like any business decision, your decisions and actions about managing staff need to be well thought our and effectively implemented.