Can your business dictate its employees’ appearance?

Fri 23rd Sep 2016

Following a number of high profile cases, Acas has published new guidance on ‘Dress Codes and Appearances at work’. Philip Sayers looks at how far businesses can dictate how their staff present themselves.

“Tattoos, piercings and dyed hair are increasingly common, but there have been several cases of people being dismissed by their employers because of them. One high profile case involved a Police Officer being dismissed as a result of dying her hair and another involved British Airways banning visible jewellery. Most businesses will want their employees to present themselves in a way that portrays a particular image. For staff in public-facing roles, this is particularly important. One major airline, for example, specifies in its recruitment literature that members of its cabin crew should have no visible tattoos or body piercings “that can’t be covered discreetly”. Styles of dress can also the subject of disagreement.

“So, if a member of your staff turns up to work with a new tattoo or an outlandish hairstyle, what can you do? However much you dislike it, may well need to prove why it is unacceptable in your workplace. This may be because the member of staff has a public-facing role and it reflects badly on the business, or it may be that it is offensive to others, particularly customers.

“It is always best if you can simply discuss the issue with the member of staff and come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. This might involve them wearing long-sleeved tops to cover a tattoo, for example. Clearly this will be much easier if you have a policy on dress and appearance, which you can refer to.

“The most important thing is for all employers to have a robust policy on dress and appearance. Without this, it will be much more difficult to come to an agreement and, if things get more serious, you won’t be able to take disciplinary action. It is also important to apply any dress code consistently.”

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers on 0800 328 3282 or email

Fri 23rd Sep 2016

Related Services & sectors

Get in touch

Call us on 0800 328 3282, or complete the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Search News & Events



Changes to Paternity Leave in April 2024: What do you need to know?

As of 6th April 2024, paternity leave will be changing to reflect a shifting attitude…

Read more


Suspecting a Power of Attorney of financial abuse: what can you do?

What steps should you take if you suspect someone is committing financial abuse as a…

Read more

Portfolio Builder

Select the legal expertise that you would like to download or add to the portfolio

    Download    Add to portfolio   

    Remove All


    Click here to share this shortlist.
    (It will expire after 30 days.)