Dress codes are used in workplaces to make sure everyone is safe and dressed appropriately.
Employers are able to set a reasonable standard of dress and appearance that suits the particular industry, as long as there is no discrimination. 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.
Dress codes should:
- be applied equally to men and women
- relate to the job and be a reasonable requirement
- allow workers to follow their cultural or religious beliefs
- be fair to people with disabilities.
If a dress code does not meet these requirements, it may be discriminatory. Contact us for advice.
If a worker is dismissed because of their dress and it is discriminatory in some way, they may be able to claim unfair dismissal.
It is not discrimination to ask workers to remove piercings like nose or eyebrow rings if dealing with customers. The same rule must be applied to both men and women.
It is not discrimination to ask workers to cover tattoos if serving customers.
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 workers 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.
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 considered sex discrimination.