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Is the writing on the wall for scruffy employees?

By Amanda Beattie
04 Dec 2012
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Almost half of UK adults surveyed think it is unacceptable for front-line workers to have a non-professional appearance. More than twice as many people say scruffy clothes would put them off approaching a shop assistant compared to visible tattoos. London 27 November 2012

With the Metropolitan Police banning offensive tattoos and HMV introducing a dress code, new research by YouGov for HR experts, Croner backs employers who want to smarten up their workforce.  

Almost half (49%) of British adults surveyed agree that it is unacceptable for front line workers to have a non-professional appearance. Croner commissioned the research after it found an increasing number of employers were contacting its employment advisory service with questions on how to handle staff appearance issues.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, over a quarter (28%) of people surveyed say it is more acceptable for front line workers such as shop assistants and bar staff to have a less than ‘professional’ appearance, while far fewer said it is more acceptable for nurses and police officers (4%).

However, when asked what would put them off approaching a shop assistant, the main offender was scruffy clothes (48%), ahead of tattoos (21%) and facial piercings (37%).

Louise Barnes, a Senior Employment Consultant at Croner says:

“In the last ten years or so people’s attitudes to what they should wear, and how they look for work, have changed. As a result, employers have adopted a more casual approach with measures such as dress-down Fridays. However, our survey demonstrates that we have reached the point where some employees are unsure of the acceptable boundaries and are failing to meet the standards their bosses want. “

As our research shows, customer-facing staff needs to look presentable, particularly at this time of year when the footfall at shops such as HMV dramatically increases. Our advice to employers facing problems with employee appearance is to think about what image their business wants employees to portray. What is acceptable at one company may not be right elsewhere.

Whatever an employer decides they must consult with their employees to make sure they do not have an adverse impact on, for example, one particular sex or race, or individuals holding a particular religion or belief.” Croner offers the following best practice tips for employers wanting to implement a dress code policy:

  • Regularly review and keep up to date with any code on appearance. Social norms regarding appearance evolve constantly and any code should be updated to reflect this.
  • Ensure that any code on appearance is properly publicised within the organisation.
  • Make sure the code is consistently applied throughout the organisation.
  • No regulations governing appearance should have an adverse impact on one particular sex, race or individuals of a particular religion or belief.
  • Consider the impact of any code on any traditional or religious dress, and be able to justify the code on business grounds because of such factors.

 

Notes to editors All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  The total sample size was 2185 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31st October-2nd November 2012.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).  

About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

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