Can you discipline an employee for looking dishevelled?

Can you discipline an employee for looking dishevelled?

Can you discipline an employee for looking dishevelled?

Presenting the best version of yourself is important at work. Recently, there’s been a lot of debate around the necessity of dress codes in the workplace – mainly what constitutes a fair, unbiased and unsexist dress requirement.

But how enforceable is that in reality? Does an employer have the right to discipline an employee for coming into work looking dishevelled – even if they’re not client facing?

“If you have a dress code that has certain expectations around grooming and appearance, and an employee flaunts those rules, then that could constitute a form of discipline,” explained Daryl Cukierman, partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and speaker at our upcoming Employment Law Masterclass.

“However, there’s a few issues HR leaders should bear in mind. You really need to view the individual cases in their full context.”

A recent report from OfficeTeam found that one fifth of workers said they’d prefer to work for a company with a less formal dress code, whilst 32% want a casual dress code or no dress code at all. And it seems as if management are well aware of these emerging opinions around dress codes – as one in five senior leaders admit that their employees wear less strict clothing than they did just five years previously.

However, before you start jumping to conclusions about how an employee should dress – you’d do well to think about extenuating circumstances.

“It’s important to be cautious of gender discrimination,” continued Daryl. “If you’re going to enforce these standards, then they really need to apply equally for men and women. There shouldn’t be more of an expectation on one gender more than the other to dress a certain way.

“Secondly, be careful of potential disability related concerns. In other words, if the employee comes to work dishevelled, is that indicative of some disability or mental illness? Or is it simply their appearance?”

Essentially, any employer should turn their minds to these Daryl outlined first, and give careful thought to their actions, before they start thinking about disciplining an employee.

To hear more about the hottest employment law issues prevalent in your workplaces, book your ticket for HRD Canada’s upcoming Employment Law Summit in Toronto here.


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