When it comes to employee relations, the mundane topics can be the most perplexing to employers. One of my clients regularly laments the lack of dress sense of her employees. During the summer, many companies allow employees to dress more casually. However, what constitutes appropriate casual business attire is often left to the interpretation of employees.

Six weeks into the summer, you know what I mean. The ladies reveal more skin, bra straps, flip flops, and skimpy tops. Men show up in shorts, questionable T-shirts, and button down shirts with too many buttons down. Surely none of those fit the description of casual “business” attire.
The key is to strike a balance between implementing a less-stringent summer dress policy and getting employees to dress for work not the beach. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Have a general dress code in place and put it in writing. As with any policy, the rules should be clear and the consequences for transgression spelled out.
  2. Be specific about what’s allowed and what’s not. Explain what business casual looks like for men and for women. Illustrate with photos of what permissible and what’s inappropriate.
  3. Communicate the expectations. Share the policy reminder with all employees during regular staff meetings.
  4. Make sure all supervisors do the same in all locations of business.
  5. Handle all transgressions equally. Be consistent in the way you enforce the policy. Although what’s acceptable wear for men and women will differ, the way you handle those who break the rules should not. This is not the time for claims of gender discrimination.
  6. Recognize that some employees are not comfortable in casual dress. Summer causal should be an option, not a mandate.

By following those guidelines, you should enforce the summer dress code without an employee meltdown. Nine times out of ten, employees understand the purpose of a dress code and a friendly reminder is enough to remedy most violations. However, managers should be on guard if employees react with any “red flag” objections that could be an early sign of trouble. Red flags include protests based on religious practice or unfair burden on one sex or race.
About the author – Anne-Lise Gere is the owner and Principal consultant at Gere Consulting Associates LLC. She brings a breadth of experience with 15 years of Human Resources experience in industry (Siemens Automotive, Procter & Gamble) and as a consultant. Her current practice focuses on building excellence in human resources to growing businesses in the Hampton Roads. You can contact her at annelise.gere@gmail.com or call 757.303.1635.