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Dress codes for staff

Dress codes are used in workplaces to make sure everyone is safe and dressed appropriately.

You can set a reasonable standard of dress and appearance that suits your industry, as long as you do not discriminate. A dress code is discriminatory if it treats one group of people less favourably than another, and it is unreasonable to do so.

Dress standards related to specific enterprise agreements or occupational health, safety and welfare are generally considered reasonable.

Any dress codes you set should:

  • be applied equally to men and women
  • relate to the job and be a reasonable requirement
  • allow staff to follow their cultural or religious beliefs
  • be fair to people with disabilities.

If a dress code in your business does not meet these requirements, it may be discriminatory. Contact us for advice.

If you dismiss staff because of their dress, they may be able to claim unfair dismissal.

Common issues

Piercing - It is not discrimination to ask your staff to remove piercing like nose or eyebrow rings if they are dealing with customers. The same rule must be applied to men and women.

Tattoos - It is not discrimination to ask staff to cover tatttoos if they are serving customers.

Hair - It may be discrimination to ask staff to be clean-shaven if it is against their religion to shave. However, it is not discrimination to ask them to tie back their hair for health and safety reasons, as long as the rule applies to both men and women.

Religious appearance or dress - It is discrimination to treat a person less favourably than other workers because the person wears dress or adornments symbolic of their religion. However, workers can be required not to wear items that present a safety hazard, and can be required to show their faces for reasonable identification.

Other examples

  • It may be racial discrimination to ask staff not to wear loose clothing if it part of their cultural or national dress, like Indian women wearing saris. However, this may be a reasonable request in a workplace where they operate machinery, because of the risk of injury.
  • Asking staff to wear business attire may be reasonable, but asking men to wear ties and women to wear skirts may be sex discrimination.
Related information

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