Look to Uniformity with Dress Code Decisions

By Andrew Willis
17 Sep 2013

Morrisons case highlights need for clear HR policies and procedures. The recent high-profile case of a Morrisons supermarket worker who was disciplined for wearing banned items emphasises the need for employers to have clear dress code rules and sensible crisis management procedures, says Croner, UK experts in HR, part of global information services business, Wolters Kluwer.

Richard Smith, Employment Law Expert, at Croner comments on the situation:

“The reasons for the company’s concern appear to be mixed across a number of areas, each of which may be a legitimate concern: i.e. wearing of wristbands in a food prep setting; non-compliance with a rule barring the wearing of any pins, badges or wristbands; refusal to comply with instructions when asked to remove them and walking off when spoken to. “They do not appear to have taken a view that the symbolism of the item was the issue; it could have been a shamrock or a Mickey Mouse badge and they would have taken the same view.

“However; this and other similar cases, such as the BA one, are an example of when what looks like a fairly normal attempt to enforce rules creates a media firestorm. For larger employers in particular I would counsel that if they ever feel that there is a PR dimension to a case that they should escalate it not only to their HR team for the appropriate legal advice, but also engage with their PR team as to how to handle such stories.”

Croner also advises employers not to ignore a breach of rules once they have started to tackle them as this would leave them open to charges of inconsistency in future cases where they attempt to enforce a rule. In addition they warn of the dangers of allowing certain types of badges or wrist bands and not others. Richard says: “It is much easier and better to have a clear rules about what can and can’t be worn rather than discretionary ones as they are easier to apply.”

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





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