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Creating a Personal Appearance in the Workplace Policy

Most employers intend to uphold an image the represents their organization in a positive way. Employees’ personal appearance while they are representing the organization may have a direct impact not only on the image of the organization, but also the success of the organization. Personal appearance in the workplace standards vary from uniforms to suits and everything in between. Does your organization need to establish personal appearance guidelines for employees? If employees deal extensively with the public, there may be a need to implement a policy regarding specific personal appearance guidelines. This article will include tips for creating and implementing a personal appearance in the workplace policy.

First, employers must decide what type of personal appearance is acceptable in their workplace. This could mean uniforms, business professional attire, or casual attire to name a few. Whichever type of personal appearance that the employer deems appropriate for the workplace, it must be described and defined. Keep in mind that regardless of what the management team decides the policy must also include wording about accommodating an employee with a disability where necessary.

If an employer selects a policy where uniforms are mandatory in the workplace, the policy should include at a minimum what the employee is expected to wear as part of the uniform, what will be provided and/or how many will be purchased for the employee, who will be responsible for paying for the items, and who from the organization to contact in the event that an employee has a question regarding uniforms.

If the employer decides that all employees must wear business professional attire, they must be specific in their policy about what their definition of business professional attire looks like. Examples include: a suit and tie, or a button-down shirt with tie and neatly pressed slacks for men, and dress slacks with a blouse, or a skirt with a blouse and jacket for women.

Casual attire, like all of the other types of personal appearance, must be described in detail. Many employers allow employees to wear jeans, however, few want employees wearing jeans with holes, or that are heavily frayed.  Many employers with casual dress policies expect men to wear collared shirts and women to refrain from wearing strapless garments. In any event, employers are wise to advise employees to understand they are dressing for work, and not a night out with friends.

In each of the three different types of attire listed above, employers should identify specific types of clothing that are not permitted and/or how they should be worn.  Examples of this may include the following: uniforms must be worn with shirts tucked in; and while jeans are permissible in the workplace they must be in good condition, without holes, fraying, or bleach stains.

Along with the specifics of the type of personal appearance the employer chooses, there should be some general guidelines for all employees to follow. Employers should note that while they are able to restrict certain things in the workplace, they must be careful in unduly restricting employees’ personal tastes. With this being said, employers may consider including the following guidelines in their policy:

  • Mustaches and beards must be clean, well-trimmed, and neat.
  • Excessive make-up is not permitted.
  • Athletic shorts are not permitted.
  • Leggings or leggings as pants are not permitted.
  • Offensive body odor and poor personal hygiene is not professionally acceptable.
  • Perfume, cologne, and aftershave lotion should be used moderately or avoided altogether, as some individuals may be sensitive to strong fragrances.
  • Jewelry should not be functionally restrictive, dangerous to job performance, or excessive.
  • Facial jewelry, such as eyebrow rings, nose rings, lip rings, and tongue studs, are not professionally appropriate and must not be worn during working hours.
  • Torso body piercings with visible jewelry or jewelry that is visible through or under clothing must not be worn during working hours.
  • Visible excessive tattoos and similar body art must be covered during working hours.

A well-designed personal appearance in the workplace policy should be easy for all employees to follow. In addition, employers must also hold managers accountable for enforcing the policy among employees. If a manager notices that an employee’s personal appearance conflicts with the organization’s policy, they should have the ability to send the employee home in order to correct the appearance issue. If an employee continuously fails to follow the personal appearance policy, that employee should be placed on a progressive disciplinary action plan in order to correct the inappropriate issues. Ultimately, if the employee does not change their personal appearance in the workplace in order to comply with the employer’s policy that employee may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.  Employer’s need to remember that an employee’s personal appearance in the workplace is a direct reflection of their organization.

For additional information on how to create and implement a personal appearance in the workplace policy, please contact New Focus HR, LLC at www.newfocushr.com. Every organization should include a policy in their employee handbook and New Focus HR, LLC has the ability to create a policy that works for all employees in your organization.

Written by: Patrick McKenna, SHRM-CP

HR Consultant





New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.