How should employers approach dress down Fridays?

Fri 16th Dec 2016

Philip Sayers, from the Employment team at Coodes Solicitors comments on the tricky subject of dress down Fridays and the ambiguity of smart casual dress codes.

In a recent employee survey, 34% of respondents said they don’t understand what the term ‘smart casual’ means in practice. In the same research, 37% of people surveyed who have held management roles said they have chosen not to award a promotion or pay rise to an employee who consistently dresses inappropriately.

Could how I dress impact my career progression?

The latter statistic suggests that how employees dress is really important to their employers and can impact on their career progression. I have had some interesting debates over whether or not lawyers should wear ties in the office – opinions go both ways.

Clearly, it depends on the nature of your business. You would probably want staff to dress differently if they are handling clients’ finances than if, say, they are selling quirky gifts. For any business the benchmark question might be: “Would I be happy to be served by someone dressed like this?” or “Does this convey the image of the organisation that I want?”

Dress down Fridays

Many firms now adopt this approach to give staff the chance to wear more casual, comfortable clothes on a Friday. Dress down Fridays are far more common in businesses with office staff than other groups of employees. If your company does dress down Fridays are you clear what are you actually expecting of staff? For many firms, it is likely to mean that employees are permitted to wear smart casual clothes, rather than formal suits. However, as the recent employee survey showed this is an ambiguous term that many people don’t understand.

As always, the key for employers is to lay down some clear ground rules which you are prepared to enforce if needs be. This may include, for example, only permitting staff to wear more casual clothes if they have no external meetings that day. It could also mean having guidelines as to which clothes are permitted on dress down Fridays and which are not. For example, you may not allow flip flops. You need to give careful consideration as to why certain items of clothing are not permitted, to avoid indirect discrimination. Acas has some excellent advice on this topic, including how to avoid unlawful discrimination in your dress code policy. Involving your staff in discussions and consulting them on their views, as well as continually reviewing your policy should help keep employees on board.

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers in the Employment team at Coodes Solicitors on 01872 246200 or

Fri 16th Dec 2016

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