The do’s and don’ts of workplace dress codes

11 August, 2016
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

Starbucks recently announced a new dress code that invitesDress code its US employees to show off their personality, ‘open [their] closets and have fun’. Whilst this sort of statement may excite employees it may also cause confusion.

To avoid uncertainty, Starbucks helpfully provided its employees with a ‘Dress Code Lookbook’. The book sets out guidance around acceptable materials of clothes as well as length and patterns. There is also an entire page dedicated to the company’s colour palette which is limited to black, charcoal, grey, navy, white, brown and khaki.

It is reported that the UK stores have not yet implemented the above dress code but are currently looking at new uniform guidelines. When thinking about implementing a dress code, Starbucks and all UK employers should:

  • Avoid discriminating against its employees on grounds known as ‘protected characteristics’ which include religion and sex. Although employers may have different dress codes for men and women, such as “men to wear ties, women to dress professionally”, they should ensure the dress code isn’t more stringent for one sex than it is for the other.
  • Where possible consult with employees before imposing any new or updated policy on appearance and explain the business or other reasons for it.
  • Think about whether the policy will put disabled employees at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled and if it does, whether any reasonable adjustments may be necessary. Reasonable adjustments should be considered on a case by case basis and in consultation with the individual concerned.
  • Make sure the policy is easily accessible to all employees and ensure managers enforce it consistently. Employers may want to consider whether training managers on the policy is necessary.


For more information, employers can read Acas guidance note – ‘Dress code and appearance in the workplace’.