30/05/2003

Thumbs down to dressing down in the workplace

A new survey shows that "dressing down" in the workplace is rapidly falling out of favour through over-use.

In a web survey by Croner, a leading supplier of business information, 67% of Human Resource (HR) professionals believe that employees are dressing down too much.

In 1995, commentators in the US were predicting it would lead to a more relaxed approach to office manners and less productivity, as well as a rise in bad language, a drop in commitment to the company and an increase in complaints to HR and litigation.

The need for a clear policy has been highlighted following the recent court case between civil servant Matthew Thompson and his employers, Jobcentre Plus in Manchester. He successfully claimed sex discrimination and a breach of human rights on the grounds that he was expected to dress formally and wear a collar and tie whereas his female colleagues were allowed to wear T-shirts and football shirts.

Gill Fraser, editor of Croner's Personnel in Practice publication, commented: "As with everything, dressing down can have positive and negative impacts on a business. While it can seem relatively harmless to some people, an unclear policy can have serious implications. If the issue is mishandled it can be divisive and at worst lead to potentially expensive discrimination claims as we have seen recently.

"It is crucial that employers have a strong and transparent policy on dress codes to protect themselves and ensure employees know where they stand."

(CL)

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