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Majority of dress codes avoid issue of religious clothing and accessories

Dress codes are used by a majority of employers to enhance or protect their external image, but many are wary of using them in case they cause offence to employees.

Almost 88 per cent of organisations surveyed by XpertHR said that the purpose of their clothing and appearance policy was to enhance or protect their image, and two-thirds said that it had helped them to do it.

More than four in five respondents said their dress code had helped to set standards in the workplace.

Sensitivity to employees' needs

But a quarter reported that they worried that their dress code might offend employees, even though only a tiny minority (less than 3 per cent) had actually received a complaint that their code was discriminatory.

Many employers had been careful to word their policies to reduce the risk of any legal infractions.

A majority (54 per cent) avoided any reference to the banning of garments or accessories that could be associated with religions or beliefs, and more the two in five had made allowances or provided flexibility for religious requirements.

More than one in five had consulted employees about their clothing policy, and the same proportion had taken legal advice over it.

Even so, almost one in five dress codes forbade religious headwear.

Acas recommends consulting employees over proposed dress codes. Once an agreement has been reached, it should be written down in a formal policy and communicated to all members of staff, so they understand what standards are expected from them.

Acas publications and services

Acas has published guidance on Dress code, which goes over the key points, including religious dress, and on pdf icon Religion or belief and the workplace - a guide for employers and employees [347kb], which gives practical help on how to comply with the Equality Act 2010.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and make sure your equality and diversity policy is legally compliant. See Equality and diversity: how Acas can help for more information.

Practical Acas training provides the insight you need to stay on the right side of Discrimination law, and keep on top of issues related to Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010. Other courses cover essential Skills for supervisors and Employing People - A Practical Introduction, for newer employers.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.


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