April Showers Bring May Dress Code Problems
As temperatures rise outside, many small business owners or office managers will be presented with an annual HR challenge – addressing situations where employees are not dressed appropriately for work. For many, the arrival of Spring signals wardrobe adjustments that may or may not be in line with how that person’s employers want the company’s image to be represented.
To minimize the amount of time spent addressing this issue, an owner or manager should first take inventory of the current rules or policies related to the company’s dress code. Is there a written Dress Code Policy in place? If not, is it time to enact one? If a policy exists, has it been reviewed and adjusted to address any unexpected issues from last year? (If you need assistance with crafting a policy or would just like someone to review your existing policy, Red Oak Law can help.) At a minimum, the policy should describe what is considered appropriate and inappropriate dress and describe consequences of violating the policy.
Assuming a Dress Code Policy exists, now is a great time to redistribute that policy to all employees, with some type of acknowledgement that the rules have been reviewed by each employee. (If you wait until you have an incident occur and then send out the policy, you will be putting the “offending” employee in an even more uncomfortable situation.
If an employee violates the policy, it is important to show tact in addressing the issue. By the time you become aware of the situation, it is highly likely that many of the employee’s coworkers are already aware of what that employee wore to work that day. There has likely been plenty of hushed conversation between peers. It is important to have a private conversation with the employee and to follow the terms of the policy as it pertains to resolving the problem (in other words, send the person home to change if that it set forth within the policy). Keep in mind that this is likely to be an extremely embarrassing situation for the employee; most employees assume whatever they picked out to wear that day is acceptable attire.
Some businesses provide for a more relaxed Dress Code Policy during the summer. Examples of items typically allowed under such a policy include polo shirts, apparel with company logo, capri pants, and knee-length dresses or skirts. Items typically prohibited include shorts, flip-flops, leggings, sweatpants, athletic wear, and tank tops.
With any Dress Code Policy, the keys are to be specific with expectations, communicate those expectations, and enforce consistently. April showers bring May flowers, but they don’t have to bring an increase in work for your manager or HR person.