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Office Dress Codes: Where to Draw the Line

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How casual is too casual?

The Philippines is a tropical country; it gets hot, humid and sticky every day unless it rains. With such temperamental weather, it makes sense for residents to dress in shorts, flip-flops and tank tops. However, depending on what kind of business you run, this may not be appropriate attire for employees. Setting a dress code can be useful for reigning in the inappropriate attire, but you must be careful not to breach any laws or alienate your employees.

All offices need some sort of dress code, even if it is as basic as “no visible underwear or private parts.” Below are a few guidelines on how to implement a dress code without pushing your employees too far.

  • Give employees dress code regulations in writing so they have something to refer to. If employees are in violation, management has something to refer to.
  • Clarify with measurable guidelines so there is no room for misunderstanding. For example, instead of saying “no short skirts,” say “hems must be kept at knee length.”
  • Implement regulations that make sense. If an employee has to remain on his or her feet all day, don’t require uncomfortable shoes. If a regulation is for safety purposes, such as closed-toe shoes in a lab, specify the reasons.
  • Never discriminate. Whether it is for gender, race, religion or otherwise, office dress codes must be extremely cautious about discrimination. Do not say “no bra-straps,” but “no visible underwear.” Likewise, steer clear of gender-exclusive requirements. Instead of demanding heels (unless you will require them of the males as well), request formal footwear.
  • Enforce equally. In addition to steering clear of discrimination in setting the rules, the enforcement of dress codes must also be equal. For example, if there are strictly no piercings are allowed, yet earrings on women are often overlooked, it could count as gender discrimination against men when they are prevented from wearing earrings as well.

Whether your company enforces a business professional or casual dress code, make sure it is fair, makes sense, and there is solid thought behind it. If you have a current dress code in place, it may be time to reevaluate based on how your company and workforce has evolved.


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