Dress for Success: How to Create a Dress Code Policy

Sep 24, 2018

Dress for Success: How to Create a Dress Code Policy

Creating a dress code policy ensures that your employees look professional at all times. Learn how to create a dress code policy with this useful guide.


Dress code policies might seem like overkill for a small business. But every company needs a dress code, including yours.

Why? Today, business wardrobes are leaning more towards casual dress. Some companies forego dress codes altogether. They feel that workers do best when they're wearing clothes that are comfortable.

But not having a dress code is an open invitation to future problems. If there is no dress code, someone is going to push the limit. This could cause safety problems or customer service issues. It could even end with a lawsuit for discrimination.

These are all reasons that it's better to have a dress code policy for your business. For tips on how to create the best company dress code, keep reading.

Why You Need a Dress Code Policy

When it comes to managing a large group of people, clear-cut rules are the best way to go. If you're working with two people, then you can have frank discussions about any problems. This is harder with teams of five or more.

Personal style is a hard enough discussion as it is. Order someone to change their style can be the same as telling them to change parts of their personalities.

When you have a clear written dress code policy, you set firm boundaries for what you expect at work. You expect your employees to do their work and treat each other with respect. So it makes sense that you want their clothing to reflect that.

Tips for Creating a Dress Code Policy

The dress code policy for your company will have to be unique to your business. But there are still general guidelines you should follow.

There is No One Size Fits All Policy

The people in your office all perform different tasks. Some will be in the back working with parts or computers. Others will be upfront interacting with customers.

Make sure that you create a specific dress code for each role in your business. For example, if you run a restaurant you might have a rule saying waiters can't have visible tattoos. Cooks in the back won't need to worry about that.

Follow the Company Culture

Every company is unique, and the same goes for your employee dress code.

Creative or tech start-ups might value comfort over old-school professionalism. Other industries might need to dress in flame-retardant clothing to keep everyone safe. Some law firms require their employees to dress in suits and ties.

Regardless of what you need in a dress code, take your cues from your company culture.

You Can't Discriminate

One of the reasons to make a dress code policy is to avoid lawsuits. So you need to create a policy that doesn't discriminate based on these factors.

Religion- You have to allow employees to wear what they want if it's a part of their religion. The only reason to not allow this is for safety.

Gender- Men and women wear different clothing to the office. For example, a man might need to wear a tie to his job, while women don't. That's fine, but your dress code can't give an advantage to one gender or the other. Also, be careful with how you word these policies. Otherwise, you'll face the same problems public schools have.

Race- Dress codes also can't discriminate against race. Although this is a more difficult, and rare, form of discrimination it does exist. Here's one example though. African American women have been talking about how offices discriminate against their hair.

Sexual Harassment- This dress code problem lies in the language of a dress code policy, and how it's executed. It often happens if the person who's disciplined feels that they're objectified. It's like our above example about public school dress codes. To avoid this, work with your small business's HR team to craft the wording. Make sure anyone who's executing the dress code policy isn't harsh or aggressive.

Use Clear Language

When you're creating an employee dress code, you have to use clear language. If it's easier, give them examples of what is not okay, as well as what is.

For example, blue jeans might not work, but colored denim could. Or, in some cases, all denim is out. Make this distinction clear so there won't be any questions down the road.

Make the Dress Code Clear and Easy to Find

If you want to avoid employee dress code problems, you need to make sure everyone has read it. Write it down and put it in the employee handbook. Explain the dress code to any new employees during their orientation.

Explain the Consequences

At some point, you'll run into a dress code problem that you'll need to address. Does that person need to go home and change? Or do they only get a citation?

Whatever the consequences are, everyone needs to be on board. Write out the consequences for violating the dress code in your employee handbook. That way if someone breaks the rules, no one gets surprised.

Work with Management and an HR Expert

Many company dress code changes start from the top and go down. There is going to be pushback from the Joe Schmoes who enjoyed wearing jeans to work every day.

That's why it's vital to work with your management and HR expert. Management will be able to support and enforce the changes. HR experts can help you create the dress code. They'll know how to protect you from lawsuits, such as religious compliance.

Stay Flexible, But Don't Be Afraid to Draw a Line

Dress code policies are there to protect your business. It ensures fairness and keeps everyone on the same page.

But they don't have to be hard-lines in the sand. Remember that your employees work better when they're comfortable. Unless they're openly ignoring the rules, you should be able to work with them.

Want to Read More About HR Topics?

A great HR expert does more than creating a dress code policy. They can be a vital part of your business and make everything easier.

For more information about everything an HR expert can do for you, click here.


Disclaimer: HR Branches provides general information about Human Resources. Please note that the information provided, while reliable, is not legal advice. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make sure your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location and circumstances. The purpose of this information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance on general HR matters.

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