#BTColumn – What are dress codes for?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

by Carol-Ann Jordan and Jacqueline Belgrave

Dear HR

Recently, I participated in a discussion about dress codes in the workplace. What are dress codes used for in organizations? Should there even be dress codes?

A dress code or appearance policy allows an employer to define (state) their expectations regarding how the business is perceived by the public – customers and clients and for this reason a company’s dress code can be formal or informal and may include the use of uniforms.

Each business must determine what is appropriate for the type of business it operates and the image it wishes to project to its customers.

Ultimately, the dress code serves to make a statement about the professionalism of the individual and the organization, especially during meetings and client/client interactions where first impressions are key.

Over the years, what was considered professional attire has changed. Although some employers have relaxed their formal dress codes, most have kept a policy in place to ensure certain standards are maintained.

There are many reasons why a company may choose to implement a dress code policy or may instead choose to provide uniforms to its employees:

Advertising and brand awareness

Uniforms are a good advertisement for the company as they help to promote the company brand and act as an effective marketing tool.

The uniform communicates the corporate image that the company wishes to project and increases brand retention in the minds of the public.


One of the main benefits of a uniform is that it reduces the need to figure out what to wear to work each day.

This can take the pressure off that some may feel pressured to follow fashion trends or be seen in the latest styles. It also reduces the amount the employee spends on clothing.

Additionally, it is also believed that employees being similarly equipped, wearing the same style and colors would lead to a sense of esprit de corps (team spirit) and make employees feel like they are all equal in the eyes of the company.

Furthermore, it is believed that in the public domain, the uniform links the identity of the employee to that of the company and any goodwill for the individual can translate into goodwill for the company and vice versa. .

Public respect for the company is expected to result in increased employee loyalty and allegiance to the company.

Health and security

Sometimes dress codes are introduced for health and safety reasons. Especially in manufacturing environments, uniforms provide employees with physical protection from harm.

Depending on the nature of the employee’s work, there can be many hazards in the workplace, so it is important that employees wear the appropriate attire that ensures their safety.

Dress Code/Policy

Dress code policies provide guidelines for their employees on what is considered appropriate work attire.

The policy ensures that employees have a clear understanding of what is considered appropriate clothing for their workplace.

In some circumstances, the policy sometimes includes difficult-to-address topics such as good hygiene and grooming.

Depending on the sector or industry, this may include rules on hairstyles, beards, body piercings and tattoos. Again, depending on the industry, the policy may also extend to jewelry that can be worn.

Of course, on the other hand, there are also those who believe that there is no need for a dress code or such policies.

These people believe that employees should be free from stipulations such as these allowing them to be themselves and as comfortable as possible – to express their individuality and portray their identity.

It is thought that higher levels of productivity can result in these more relaxed environments; that casual clothing makes employees feel much more comfortable and this leads to more relaxed interactions with each other.

As you can see, the dress code/policy in place in a workplace depends on the business objective and will support the strategies being pursued.

If you’re revamping an existing code or looking to implement a dress code in your workplace, here are some tips you might find useful: When developing a dress code policy or deciding on uniforms

• Always include your employees. Have a cross-section of employees involved in the development or review process and consider their opinions and suggestions.

• Establish a small uniform committee.

• Also remember that “one size may not fit all”. Explore a wide variety of options that fit the organization’s corporate culture.

Recognizing increased diversity, even within our local and regional environments, this will provide employees with wider options for appropriate wear.

• Organizations should develop policies that not only align with employer goals, but respect employee rights (eg, religious beliefs and ethnicity). By doing so, employers also protect themselves from claims of discrimination.

About Lifeline Labor Solutions: Lifeline Labor Solutions is a boutique partnership that provides people management solutions to workplace challenges. Partners Carol-Ann Jordan and Jacqueline Belgrave are established practitioners with a wealth of knowledge and experience in labor relations, labor relations and human resource management. E-mail: [email protected]; Tel: 1(246)247-5213

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