How do you tell an employee to dress more professionally
- Advertisement -

What we consider to be appropriate attire in the workplace has shifted dramatically over the past few decades. We’ve gone from suits and ties to t-shirts and sneakers, as our ideas around professionality have evolved with our impression of what a workplace should be.

But, in certain situations or workplaces, it may become apparent that an employee is not reflecting the business’ brand, and an employer has to step in.

We spoke to Shana French, a lawyer at Sherrard Kuzz, who gave us her take on the sensitive issue.

- advertisement -

“It’s interesting,” she explained, “because when we have these conversations, I always feel like we’re talking about women. This is an issue for all genders in the workplace, depending on the workplace culture. Sometimes businesses struggle to align their employees with the brand of the business.

“In Ontario, gender expression and gender identity are protected grounds under the human rights legislation. So, when an employer has dress code policies that seem like they were dreamt up in the 1980s – i.e. tops that expose mid-drifts, no spandex shorts, no black nail polish, no nose piercings and so on – it’s apparent they need to dust them off and get with the times. Employers are well advised to start looking at dress codes from a none-gendered perspective.

“When you’re encouraging employees to dress more professionally, I caution employers to look beyond ‘gender appropriate behaviour’. Gender stereotypes in policies shouldn’t overstep, from a human rights perspective, into an area that could be an attempt to enforce gender stereotypes on an employee.”

Instead, French advocates instilling a policy that’s appropriate to your particular workplace culture. If your office has a business-casual dress code, it should reflect this – if it is jeans and tee-shirt start-up, explain this.

“Have a conversation,” added French. “Employers can sometimes be afraid of approaching the employee and simply talking to them about the issue. You should be putting in some thought about what you’re going to say before you have the meeting, so it doesn’t come out as ‘when you wear those low-cut tops, it makes the men feel uncomfortable’.

“Think about why you’re having the conversation too – how have you reached this point? If the employee in question specifically asks what’s unprofessional about their attire, then you can mention specifics – but when approaching the conversation keep it gender neutral.

“Be sure to document the conversation in the employee’s file, for future reference. Overall, just be sensible about having a new policy which both reflects the brand of your business and doesn’t gender stereotype.”


Previous articleJunior doctors cry for posting
Next articleWhy Trump’s peace plan may still fail
ADR Daily is a specialized news portal with a focus on providing authentic news, information and research analysis on Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Human Resource Management (HRM) and Industrial Relations Management (IRM) in Ghana and beyond. This platform serves as an information resource base for the progress of the ADR, HRM and IRM industries, and seeks to promote professionalism in ADR practice by supporting a network of ADR professionals within and across nations and continents. ADR Daily keenly encourages the mass adoption of ADR mechanisms, particularly negotiation, mediation and arbitration for the resolution of disputes in all spheres, through the publication of industry news and information, as well as by deploying innovative awareness creation engagements.