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Employee Dress Code Policy for Summer

Tank Top Trouble: Tips for Employee Dress During Summer

As the weather warms up, you may find that more and more people are crossing the line of what’s appropriate to wear in the work place. From low-cut blouses to too-short of shorts, this situation can create a need to talk about a summer dress code and how your organization wants to manage employees who need to either cover up or go home and change.

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Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you are creating an employee dress code policy for summer and also some tips for having respectful conversations with employees.

Employee Dress Code – Summertime Policy Factors

1. Younger workers may need extra help. If you have workers for whom this is their first professional job, they may be unfamiliar with office-appropriate attire. This is especially true for recent college and high school grads. They may still be wearing what they wore in school. And, it’s unlikely that their look suits the workplace.

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How do you approach these employees tactfully? Remember that they may not realize that they are bending or breaking the rules (both written and unwritten) about office wear. Approach them with sensitivity. This may be their first conversation where they are being corrected at work and they will likely feel embarrassed. Your tone may be different if you think someone is trying to break the rules.

2. Be consistent. Be careful about singling out your female employees versus your male employees, or older employees versus younger employees. Are you holding them to different standards? Be mindful that consistency is always the key to HR. Whenever you’re enforcing guidelines you need to apply them consistently.

3. Write an employee dress code policy. In HR, it’s always good to start with a written policy. If you don’t have a dress code policy, it’s probably a good idea to create one so that you can reference something that you expect the employees to have already read, understood and agreed to. This approach is better than leaving it to your managers to communicate standards on their own.

How to Handle Employee Dress Code Violations

When an employee is underdressed, do you send the offending employee home? It depends on your organization. If you have a person that‘s in a customer-facing role, it’s likely appropriate to either send them home to change and return to work, or ask them to come back the next day. There are extremes to everything, but it may be enough to have someone put on a jacket or, if they have another shirt or pair of pants to put on, that might work.

And, always talk to them in private.

What Are Office Apparel Norms?

Each office should have certain dress code rules that explain what is appropriate attire. Here are a few common examples of employee dress code policies that I have most often seen during my years in HR.

1. For shorts and skirts, a hem line below the fingertips and just slightly above the knee is appropriate.

2. A lot of companies will not allow tank tops or halter tops.

3. Shirts must have sleeves.

4. No shirts or blouses that are low-cut or unbuttoned too much in the front is a good rule.

5. Regarding footwear, you may be worried about safety and have very high standards for footwear at your work place. Most work places will say "no" to open-toed shoes. Other workplaces are more comfortable with open toes, but still require shoes to be worn. Sandals and flip-flop rules depend on your work environment and where there are safety hazards.

6. Overall appearance needs to be well-groomed. Be careful with issues around facial hair. There could be cultural or religious differences at play.

7. Piercings and tattoos can also be big issues in summer when they are more visible. This issue has no written and hard rule. Just be mindful that, while most people assume that it’s okay for women to wear earrings, you can get into trouble when you don’t let men wear earrings. Probably the safest route is to say, “Appropriate work jewelry is acceptable.” That way, if you feel like there are people who are crossing that line you can have a conversation with them about what is acceptable.

Generally speaking, if you are going to make some strict rules about tattoos or piercings, you’re going to need to be mindful of any religious or cultural influences that need to be respected.

Workplaces are micro-environments. If you have a worker coming in without enough clothing on, it’s going to be very distracting in the workplace. In the end, it’s about making sure that you have a safe and productive workplace. And, when dress or attire is taking away from safety or productivity, then it’s time for HR to get involved.


Stacey Carroll
Director of Customer Service and Education

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Stacey Carroll
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