How to Write a Dress Code Policy (With Examples)

How to Write a Dress Code Policy (With Examples)

When you walk into a professional workplace, everyone is usually dressed in a similar way, whether fully suited or more relaxed. The employees are likely to be following a company dress code policy.

If you visit an office you’re unfamiliar with, you’ll probably be able to instantly spot whether the dress code is formal or casual. For example, a law firm will almost always expect its fee earners and support staff to wear a suit. Web design agencies usually have a more relaxed dress code (jeans, for example).

What Is a Dress Code Policy?

A dress code policy is a defined set of guidelines on what an employer expects their employees to wear at work. In most companies, a dress code policy is a written document.

Of course, every business is different, so dress codes vary from one company to the next. In some professions, it is heavily frowned upon to wear anything but a suit, whereas others have a more business-casual dress code.

There’s no fixed rule when it comes to deciding on a dress code policy. In fact, many companies seeking to attract a diverse talent pool pride themselves on giving their employees more choice.

Of course, there may be different dress-code expectations for various job roles within a company. For example, employees in management or client-facing roles may be expected to wear professional clothing at all times. However, a building maintenance engineer in the same office would struggle to do their job in a suit. Instead, they may need to wear protective clothing to safely perform their work tasks.

Therefore, a company dress code policy should make it clear who is required to wear what type of clothing, and when.

Types of Dress Code Policy

Typically speaking, there are four types of company dress code:

  • formal business
  • business professional
  • business casual
  • casual

To help you agree on the most suitable dress code for your company, here’s a summary of what each type has to offer.

Formal Business

A formal business dress code policy is the highest level of professional attire. Suits and ties or a pantsuit or skirt must be worn every day, much like at a formal interview. Some employers may even state that plain white shirts are a must.

Employees are expected to always look professionally ‘groomed’, so neatly brushed hair and appropriate business shoes and coats are essential.

Business Professional

This dress code is not quite as strict as ‘formal business’ but it’s still conservative. Employees are expected to wear a suit (or the equivalent) but there’s more flexibility for individual fashion sense and expression.

For example, you’ll see a wide range of different ties, patterned shirts and colorful socks. Statement bags, jewelry and watches are also more prominent.

Business Casual

A business casual dress code policy is a little trickier to define; mainly because there doesn’t seem to be a universal understanding of ‘casual’.

So, what is a business casual dress code? Well, it’s not sneakers, jeans and shorts. Employees are still expected to look professional. However, they may choose to keep things quite low key.

Women may wear smart cardigans and slacks or jumpsuits, while men may roll up their shirt sleeves and forgo a tie.

Casual

This is the least formal dress code. Women may wear fashionable fitted tops, skirts and slacks while men may wear a polo shirt or crew-neck jumper and dark denim pants.

A casual dress code can be quite difficult to manage internally. As an employer, there are things you can do to ensure employees come to work appropriately dressed. For example, your casual dress code policy could outline that you expect clothes to be clean, neat and appropriate.

What Is the Best Dress Code for Remote Workers?

This is a good question. With remote working (or part home, part office) now the norm, what should the dress code be for those working from home?

The answer will largely depend on the employee’s job role and the employer’s overall stance. If the employee will be attending virtual meetings or interviews in front of a camera, they should follow the company’s standard dress code policy, whether that’s formal or casual.

There’s another good reason for enforcing a working-from-home dress code policy, and that’s a psychological one. If a homeworker dresses for the office, they will be mentally prepared for the day ahead.

How to Write a Dress Code Policy

Company dress code policies can be very different from one another. While some leave obvious descriptions such as ‘formal business wear’ for the employee to interpret, other dress codes are more precise. It’s not unusual for a dress code policy document to run to several pages.

No matter whether you’re being extremely detailed or a bit more relaxed in your policy, you’ll still want to use a positive, upbeat tone. This means clearly explaining the reasons behind the dress code policy. If employees understand why the rules exist, they are far more likely to keep to them and encourage others to do the same.

Therefore, your dress code policy should include:

  • A brief summary – This will explain why the policy exists and the company expectations regarding employee dress.
  • Who the rules relate to – This makes it clear which of your employees must follow the dress code policy (you may need to list certain roles that are exempt).
  • Overall guidelines – These explain your expectations, perhaps with some visual illustrations if you feel this will help. In this section, you may also wish to mention your rules on appearance, personal hygiene and jewelry.
  • A dress code – This section gives clear, uncontentious descriptions of the type of clothing an employee is expected to wear and in what circumstances. For example, staff may be asked to always wear a shirt but only a tie and jacket for client meetings. You may even recommend employees keep a spare tie in their desk drawer. Try not to be too presumptuous though. We live and work in a diverse world, so make it clear that you do not expect people to conform to gender stereotypes.
  • Exclusions – It’s important that employees feel they can raise any concerns they have about the dress code. Include the contact details of a named HR person whom they can confide in.
How to Write a Dress Code Policy (With Examples)
How to Write a Dress Code Policy (With Examples)

Dress Code Policy Templates

As a guide, here are two template policies you could use. One is for professional business wear, the other is for business casual dress.

Example 1: Professional Business Dress Code

Employee Dress Code Policy for [Company Name]

Why We Have a Dress Code

In order to maintain a professional and respectful working environment, [Company Name] requires all employees to wear suitable professional business attire at all times. Our dress code policy has been created to help employees understand what we expect and why.

Who the Policy Applies To

This policy applies to all employees who meet clients, colleagues, visitors or members of the public when working. This extends to home working and other off-site activities inside and outside of contracted hours.

General Policy Observations

Dressing professionally, having a neat appearance and maintaining good personal hygiene has a positive impact on staff morale, motivation levels and how others perceive the company.

Perception, as all our employees will understand, is incredibly important within our line of business. Therefore, we expect our employees to always wear professional business attire to work. This is even more important if your job is client-facing or you interact with visitors, which most of our employees do.

There will be exceptions to the rule, though, especially if a person’s job requires them to wear protective clothing to safely perform their role.

Your line manager is responsible for interpreting the dress code that is most appropriate to your role. Please consult with them (or HR) if you are unsure.

The Dress Code

Without restricting individual preferences too much, the following dress code guidelines should be followed:

Acceptable clothing:

  • Smart pants or skirt (a suit if client-facing)
  • Shirt (with a tie) and blouse of any color
  • Black or dark-brown smart, professional shoes

Unacceptable clothing:

  • Any item that is too revealing
  • Clothing that does not fit properly (far too loose or tight)
  • Denim of any kind
  • No slogans or fashion items
  • Non-professional shoes (sneakers, boat shoes, open-toed sandals and flip flops)

Please note that the list of acceptable and unacceptable clothing is not exhaustive. Employees will be expected to use their own judgment when interpreting the dress code policy.

If you have any concerns about the dress code and would like to speak to somebody in confidence, please contact [insert name] in our HR department on [insert telephone number].

Example 2: Business Casual Dress Code

Employee Dress Code Policy for [Company Name]

Why We Have a Dress Code

We like to give our employees as much freedom as possible when it comes to what they wear to work. While employees are not required to wear what would be considered formal business clothing, we still expect our employees to appear professional, which is why we have a business casual dress code policy.

Who the Policy Applies To

This dress code policy applies to all employees, whom we expect to always maintain a tidy, clean appearance. We must stress that, while we encourage individuality, clothing and other attire must not be distracting to others or make anyone feel uncomfortable. It’s important the line is not crossed between ‘business casual’ and ‘casual’.

General Policy

Every employee and contractor representing the company is expected to always dress neatly. After all, any one of us could meet a client or visitor at any point.

There may be some job roles where the business casual dress code does not apply. For example, security staff tend to be in uniform.

If you have any doubts about what you can or should wear, speak to your supervisor. They are responsible for informing you of any dress code exemptions.

The Dress Code

As a company, we like to be flexible when it comes to business attire, which is why we have a business casual dress code policy. This policy only works, however, when every employee understands the rules around not being too casual.

We do not provide a list of acceptable clothing (it would be far too long). We do, however, have a list of things we consider unacceptable.

Unacceptable clothing:

  • Any item that is too revealing (exposing your back, chest, navel, stomach or underwear)
  • Clothing that does not fit properly (far too loose or tight)
  • Transparent clothing
  • Tops with spaghetti straps or halter necks
  • Heavily faded or ripped denim
  • T-shirts or jumpers that feature a slogan or motto
  • Items that feature any unsavory language
  • Sportswear
  • Sports caps and bandanas
  • Flip flops or sneakers (shoes that are normally considered very casual)

We trust our employees, which is one reason why we have a more casual dress code. Therefore, all employees are expected to use their own judgment.

If you have any concerns about the dress code and would like to speak to somebody in confidence, please contact [insert name] in our HR department on [insert telephone number].

Things to Avoid in Your Dress Code

It is not acceptable to make assumptions about what different groups of employees should wear. Take gender as an example. Your employees may not identify as male or female, so avoid referencing what men and women should wear. After all, it’s important that your dress code policy respects the diversity of your workforce and celebrates difference.

Similarly, you should not include anything within your dress code that discriminates against a person based on their religion. For instance, you should not forbid facial hair, place a ban on head coverings or insist that skirts should not exceed a certain length, unless you build in specific exemptions for staff who may need them.

You may even choose to include a friendly note to employees within your dress code policy that says:

We welcome and respect people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. If there is anything within our dress code policy that does not fall in line with your beliefs or culture, please do let us know. We want you to feel happy and comfortable working here.

Final Thoughts

Having a good dress code policy that truly reflects the culture of your business is far more important to a business than people give it credit.

Dress codes can set the standard with new employees and help to avoid any awkward, embarrassing conversations down the line.

Most importantly, in a world where image is everything, a dress code policy can form a big part of your brand and influence how others perceive the business.

If someone misinterprets the guidelines, just remember to tread lightly. There’s often a genuine reason and a quick fix!


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