When it comes to creating a uniform policy, it's easy to worry about complying with regulation and keeping staff happy in order to avoid any backlashes in morale, productivity or staff retention. For ease, here are our 6 simple steps to creating a staff uniform policy that complies with regulation and means you have nothing to worry about.
IN SHORT; Comply With Equality Act 2010
This over-arching piece of UK law was put in place for instances just like the one you are facing. It aims to protect all citizens and employees against discrimination. If you have any concerns whatsoever about the legality of your new or existing uniforms that you issue to your employees, then make sure you comply with this piece of legislation.
This post will now discuss how the act affects your uniform policy and what you need to do in order to comply. If you need a link to the full guidance, because the act addresses other general HR issues, it can be found here; Equality Act 2010.
The act protects people from discrimination in:
Age Disability Gender Reassignment Religion Race Sexual Orientation Gender
Here are some specifics which are common problems faced when compiling a new uniform policy, related to the Equality Act 2010.
Step 1. Don't Treat Genders Differently
There are lots of grey areas in terms of gender related uniform and clothing rules. In essence, however, you cannot treat men and women differently in terms of uniform. Both sexes need to wear comparable levels of uniform in terms of appearance, comfort and formality.
This covers everything from not affording favourable treatment to men or women in terms of whether they can wear other items with their uniform, for example jewellery for women but not for men. Or, during summer, shorts for men during hot weather being allowed but women cannot wear skirts.
This touches on the potential minefield of putting in place rules for clothing items typically associated with particular genders in Western culture, namely; skirts, dresses, heeled shoes, ties and the issue of open toe shoes for women being allowed but men being unable to wear sandals or flip-flops.
Learn the lesson from the landmark case in 2016 when an agency worker was sent home for refusing to wear high heels.
Step 2. Consider race & religious Requirements
An easier issue to manage, though potentially more disastrous if gotten wrong, is the implications of religious beliefs and race related considerations.
Many religions involve certain requirements in dress when being practiced in full regard. Sikhism requires wearing the hair covered for example. Or many Muslim women wear clothing in line with the Islam culture in other areas of the world, as part of their faith.
At the same time, certain natural and Afro hair types grow differently, are more fragile and require closer management than other hair types, so head coverings may be worn out of necessity rather than for fashion preference.
To forbid anything which affects these issues and hampers an employee in your uniform policy would be discrimination.
Step 3. Make Reasonable Adjustments For Disabled People
Common sense applies here. You may not currently employ any employees with disabilities, so this may not be an issue as such, but you must be aware that you would need to update your policy if you were to employ any disabled employees in the future.
Certain uniform items may not be comfortable to wear - if at all - by people with certain disabilities.
We advise speaking with that particular employee and negotiating a suitable work-around and alternative, then including a caveat in your uniform policy.
Step 4. Fair Usage Terms
If you issue your uniform items free of charge to employees, you obviously want to avoid having to replace items every other week because they have been damaged or lost.
But accidents do happen. A jumper could be left on site, for example, and to not replace it could be seen as a little too harsh when they have treated it well and looked after it for a long time previously. Technically you wouldn't be liable to pay for a replacement in this scenario, but it's about establishing fair practice as a means of managing staff.
And Fair Usage Terms need to be put in place when drafting your policy.
To expect heavy usage trades to make their uniform items last for their whole term of full time employment would be unreasonable. Trades such as scaffolders or bricklayers, as an example, might wear out their uniform items extremely quickly just through general practice of carrying items on the shoulder.
So you need to establish fair usage terms which reflect the nature of work completed when wearing the uniform and agree this in writing with your staff. Both parties then know where they stand in terms of what the company is willing to provide and how employees will need to wash and maintain their uniform items. Don't forget to remind them about tax benefits related to maintaining and washing their uniform.
Step 5. At Least Match Competitors
Less a legal requirement and more a piece of best practice advice. You should match what your competitors issue, at least, in order to keep staff happy and make sure you aren't playing catch up when it comes to staff recruitment.
Little things such as regular updates on uniform don't go unnoticed when employees speak to friends out of work or to other businesses.
To not keep up with competitors in this regard or compensate staff in other ways is to leave yourself potentially open to growing issues in terms of morale and productivity, as well as retention.
Step 6. Take The Chance To Please Staff
And as a last step in creating a uniform policy you'll never fall foul of, use it as a chance to keep staff morale high in an affordable way.
Workwear clothing and branded uniform items, printed or embroidered, are a great boost to staff morale whenever they are issued and are actually a very cost effective way of the business giving their staff something back in return for their hard work and showing that they are valued beyond their monetary wage.
Crafting a uniform policy which has the wellbeing and morale of staff in mind can be the cornerstone of a wider company ethos which promotes a healthy attitude towards its staff and their place in the management's eyes.
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