Summer is here, and employees are inclined to wear clothing — shorts, sheer tops, mini skirts — that may be inappropriate for the office. The result can be an increase in inappropriate behavior. “Every business should have, at the very least, some written dress code in their employee handbook or policy manual so that employees know what is not to be worn more so than what can be worn,” says Scott Soder, a human resources consultant who is CEO and co-founder of PayMetrix HR in Atlanta.
The advice is especially relevant for small, new businesses. Establish the image you want to project to customers and clients. Then, the dress code should be consistent with that image. At the same time, employers should be careful to not discriminate based on gender, sex, religion and ethnicity.
The dress code for employees that frequently interact with the public such as public relations professionals might be different from a desk-bound web manager or editorial director. Employers should consider a few of the following questions when determining summer dress codes, says labor attorney Steven M. Bernstein, a partner in the Tampa, Florida, office of Fisher & Phillips LLP:
- What working environment do I hope to achieve, and how would relaxed standards impact overall corporate culture?
- What is the practice within our industry, and how will this impact public perception in the local business community?
- Have we relaxed standards on Fridays or on other occasions in the past? If so, have employees been willing to hold up their end of the bargain?
- Do employees share my view of acceptable business attire, or is the emphasis too often placed on “casual?”
- Whether it is casual or business casual dress, the following guidelines for acceptable attire might be helpful for employees:
- Dockers, pants, suit pants or slacks
- Skirts, dresses, skirt suits, maxi skirts
- Blouses, shirts, jackets
- Modest jewelry
Avoid the following:
- Shorts, leggings, capri pants, sweatpants
- Tank tops, revealing tops, halter tops
- Thong sandals, flip flops, open-toed shoes
- Clothes with offensive language
While it’s not mandatory that companies implement a dress code, it is good to establish guidelines to avoid any problems. Be sure to enforce the dress code consistently, especially as the warmer months approach. Employers should review policies throughout the year and make adjustments as necessary. Most important, establish a work environment that allows employees to feel comfortable, relaxed and productive.
This post originally appeared on New York Women In Communications Aloud Blog.