COMPANY CULTURE / SEP. 25, 2013
version 5, draft 5

Is Newsweek's Dress Code Policy Taking it Too Far?

Workplace dress code can at times become a thorny issue for employees. An employer can legitimately ask their employees to dress in a particular way because the nature of the job calls for doing so. If you are in an environment where you are meeting others and therefore represent the "public face" of your employer, then it is entirely in order for the code to specify that you dress smartly. But where should employers draw the line to define the boundaries between the reasonable and unreasonable dress code for the workplace?

Newsweek’s case confirms that this is a hard question. Following the recent acquisition of the all-digital news magazine by the International Business Time (IBT), Newsweek’s employees were given a dress code manual by the new owners. The manual specifies in detail what employees are allowed and not allowed to wear.

In brief, Newsweek’s new dress code policy prohibits staff from wearing any casual wear that is deemed unprofessional or excessively distracting such as:

- Jeans, sneakers, open-toe sandals, t-shirts, sweat suits, low-rise pants, camisoles, baseball caps, micro mini-skirts, shorts etc.

- Shaggy, messy and neglected hair, irrespective of the length

- Any kind of body piercing (except earrings, all the rest should be visible)

Employees who fail to comply with the new regulations will be asked to return home to change their clothing accordingly. Notably, employees who systematically abuse the policy risk facing progressive disciplinary action which may result in suspension without pay and/or discharge.

The new strict reforms in the company’s culture created a lot of trouble amongst the employees because now they are left without any option other than wearing standard business attire. But this attitude should on the other hand provoke thoughts whether employers take up the right premises when they take certain decisions on fine matters that affect workers’ everyday life.

Where should employers draw the line?

In my opinion employers should provide their staff with precise plausible reasons of why their proposed minimum standard of dress is deemed the most appropriate for their employees and their job. In case the employers find resistance from employees, they should engage in mutual dialogue and try to reach a common solution.

Moreover, employers should be consistent in their approach of defining the dressing standards and ensure that any dress code is in line with what they are trying to achieve. Most importantly, the guiding principle in relation to an employee's standard of dress should, if possible, be based on the impact of that person's dress upon their ability to do the job, after the reasonable expected standards of the employer are taken into account.

Are you expected to follow certain rules when it comes to dressing at work? Do you agree with them? Please comment below...

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