Let's dress for summer

At some point this year we will enjoy a week of good weather that we will call 'summer'. It will start at 9 am on a Monday and end whenever you take the barbecue out. You may want to relax your normal office dress code so that people are comfortable, but at the same time you don't want staff to appear as though they are auditioning for Love Island. Before summer arrives, remind people of your company's standards, for example, no beachwear, sheer clothing or flip flops. Applying one standard of dress for a diverse business can be difficult. Here are some common difficulties.

Can you ban jewellery?

Yes, but a ban may lead those who wish to manifest their religious beliefs to claim discrimination so you must have a legitimate reason for doing so. Good reasons would be a specific health and safety risk such as where employees are operating potentially dangerous machinery. It may be more difficult to justify a ban simply to project a certain corporate image, so you may need to be flexible.

How can you apply your dress code flexibly?

If an employee's religious belief requires them to wear an item of clothing that breaches your rules, consider whether you can modify your rules or apply them flexibly to avoid a claim of indirect religious discrimination. This is where your rule disadvantages those of a particular religion because they cannot comply with it. Anticipate those issues by, for example, accommodating Muslim women who wish to wear a headscarf as part of your uniform. You could also incorporate turbans into your company's uniform for male Sikh employees or allow Rastafarians to put their dreadlocks in a tam.

What if an employee ignores your rules?

In the first instance, speak to the employee informally to find out why they've broken your rules. Offer two options:

go out and buy something more appropriate in their break

go home and get changed.

What if they continue to refuse?

Subject to any religious objection that could be accommodated, and after your formal disciplinary procedure, a continued refusal to comply with your dress code could lead to a fair dismissal for misconduct or 'some other substantial reason'.