Posted on May 23, 2013

Summer Dress Codes: Too Hot for Compliance?

_From the HR Pros of the HR Support Center

According to a recent HR Support Center poll on spring and summer dress code policies, most businesses do not alter their dress code policies during these months. Out of all the respondents, 63% indicated no change during the spring and summer months from the company's standard dress code, while 9% indicated that employees are not required to wear professional clothing during these months.

There are four major implications to be aware of with regards to workplace dress code policies in the summer:

1. Health concerns: physical and mental stress

During the hot summer months, it is important to consider the health of employees who will be performing work outside or in a facility without air conditioning. The company may need to alter its dress code in order to reduce the physical stress of employees working outdoors, as physical stress can lead to reduced cognitive ability and heat-related injuries and illnesses. In addition, some employees may be protected under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which may require reasonable accommodations.

2. Productivity levels

The productivity levels within the business may be reduced if employees are dressed in a manner that is distracting to themselves or others. Therefore, it is important to ensure that dress codes allow for maximum productivity. For example, if an employee is wearing a baseball cap during an office meeting, others may find that to be a distraction.

3. Safety concerns: injury and accident prevention

There are several safety concerns to consider if dress codes are not properly enforced. Even in extreme temperatures, it is critical that employees wear all recommended and required safety equipment. For example, those in a construction field should not wear sandals; those in the medical field should avoid exposing unprotected skin and wearing loose accessories around hazardous chemicals or equipment such as syringes and wheelchairs.

4. Image and professionalism

Even in the summer months, it is important that the company portray a professional business image. For example, allowing pilots to wear swim trunks could certainty result in decreases in customer confidence levels.

It is encouraged to write comprehensive policies that cover the business dress code. The management team must consider productivity, safety and regulatory compliance when writing the dress code policy. It is vital to consider whether the dress code could lead to charges of discrimination. A workplace dress code for summer months should not discriminate against members of a protected class under civil rights laws such as gender discrimination, religious discrimination and race discrimination. It is important to stay consistent for all exceptions to the policy and to apply consequences for all violators of the policy. Considering these factors will ensure the company's dress code maximizes summer productivity and minimizes the potential for legal exposure.

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