Say no to Santa hats?
The retail industry seems to think that wearing santa hats at the same time every year will magically entice people to bring out their wallets and buy up big. Does it work? Who knows! This blog post will look at the sartorial side to the workplace. Can your boss make you wear costumes to work? Do employees have to use their own hard earned cash for that bright yellow shirt? Are dress codes even relevant today?
Direction to wear a costume during the holidays
We all have that friend or colleague who can’t get enough of themed parties and can pull it off Heidi Klum style. And then there are the rest of us who look like they’re auditioning for an ametuer version of american horror story (aka *me*). So imagine if you have to go to work, every day during the holiday season, and talk to strangers in a costume. Your inner childs says fun but your vanity says no. But are you actually allowed to say no?
The annoying answer is “it depends”.
Employees have to follow reasonable and lawful management directions and if you doggedly stand your ground on the principle alone, you could face disciplinary action like a warning. If you keep saying no, the disciplinary action could get worse.
So the right question to ask is whether the direction is “reasonable and lawful”. Example: your boss asks you to wear an elven costume and reindeer ears with fairy lights draped over your shoulders. What do you do?
- Immediately take the fairy lights off – you might catch fire! Any costume or management direction that causes a risk to your safety can be refused, and should be reported.
- Make sure the elf is not a playboy bunny in disguise. If it is, or of a discriminatory nature, and may offend someone, it’s not suitable for work.
- Last of all, sorry mate, you’re stuck with the reindeer ears.
So if you are told to wear something that is discriminatory, inappropriate, dangerous or humiliating speak up.
Remember the good old days when you didn’t have to match your nail polish to your headscarf or your socks to your cufflinks? When the decision about what to wear each day was already made and all you had to do was decide how to wear it? This is why I envy doctors and nurses – oh to wear scrubs everyday!
But it’s not just the comfort and free time that makes me yearn for oversized pinafores. If it is compulsory to wear a uniform, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Yep, free clothes. Your employer should and does pay you to be a walking billboard. Your employer can either: pay you an allowance (don’t spend it all on reindeer ears); or give you the actual uniform at no cost. There should not be a deduction of your wages to cover uniforms.
Caveat time – you won’t get the cash if it’s not compulsory to don the uniform.
Attention all tradies or the like – If you work under a modern award or enterprise agreement you should check to see what extra goodies you can get, such as:
- If you wear a uniform and your job requires you to get messy or dirty you should be getting a washing allowance; or
- If your uniform gets damaged because of the nature of your work, you should get an allowance so you can buy a new uniform when you need it.
A tip for the troublemakers – If you are getting around town and up to no good, make sure you’re not in a branded uniform – you really are a walking advertisement.
Dress Codes – what are they good for?
Dress codes are used to ensure that everyone is safe and dressed appropriately in a way that suits the employer’s industry and projected image. It sounds like a good idea for an employer to set a reasonable standard of dress and appearance that applies to everyone.
But, just like costumes or reindeer ears, the operative word is reasonable. Dress codes are like any other workplace policy that can be enforced against the employee in the event that they don’t measure up. That’s some serious power.
In an ideal world, a dress code will be applied equally to all staff, relate to the job that is required to be done, allow individuals the ability to express their cultural and religious beliefs, or just exude their inner hipster. If it the dress code doesn’t satisfy those criteria, is discriminatory or dangerous in any way, just say no.
So what happens when the dress policy or management direction to wear a specific thing is just plain wrong or weird? In recent times employers have incorporated into their dress codes an increasing desire to monitor and control what women wear. Would you comply with a direction from your male boss to wear a bra to work or high heel shoes? I certainly wouldn’t and I would make sure I said “no” very loudly.