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Dress codes in the workplace

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

Employers can set a reasonable standard of dress and appearance that suits their industry as long as they 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 Work Health and Safety are generally considered reasonable.

Dress codes set by your employer 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 in your workplace does not meet these requirements, it may be discriminatory. Contact us for advice.

If an employer dismisses a worker because of their dress, they could be subject to an unfair dismissal claim.

Common issues

Piercings - It is not discrimination for your employer to ask you to remove piercings, for example nose or eyebrow rings, if you are dealing with customers. The same rule must be applied to men and women.

Tattoos - Like piercings, an employer who wants a certain standard of dress in their business can ask you to cover tattoos if you are serving customers.

Hair - An employer who asks you to be clean-shaven may be discriminating if it is against your religion to shave. However, it is not discrimination to ask employees to tie back their hair for health and safety reasons, as long 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

  • Asking staff not to wear loose clothing may discriminate because of a person's race, for example Indian women may want to wear saris. However, this may be a reasonable request in a workplace where staff operate machinery, because of the risk of injury.
  • Asking all staff to wear "business attire" may be reasonable but asking men to wear ties and women to wear skirts may be discrimination.
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