Should employers relax their office dress code when temperatures soar?

22nd June 2017

Should employers relax their office dress code when temperatures soar?

Unless your workplace is suitably air conditioned, the recent heatwave may have left you pining for cooler climes. So should employers show flexibility when the mercury rises?

The question made national news this week when one call centre worker went to extreme measures to highlight the apparent inequality between male and female dress codes.  When Joey Barge, 20, from Buckinghamshire, was sent home for turning up in smart shorts to the office, he returned a short time later wearing a bright pink dress in protest. His bold act of defiance – which he documented on Twitter – prompted his bosses into a rethink. Soon after, an email was sent to staff informing them that men were permitted to wear three-quarter length shorts in ‘black, navy or beige only’.

Earlier this week, the TUC urged firms to allow workers to temporarily ditch their suits and wear cooler attire instead. As well as allowing comfortable clothes, the TUC has suggested that any outside work is done in the morning or afternoon to avoid the searing heat of the mid-day sun.

Unions are also calling for a new law forcing employers to send home workers if the mercury hits 86F (30C) – or 80F for those doing strenuous work.  While UK employees aren’t expected to work in temperatures below 16C (or 13C if doing physically demanding work), surprisingly, there is no legal maximum temperature for the workplace.

It isn’t only men who are affected by strict work dress codes. Earlier this year, the Government Equalities Office called on all employers to review their policies to “consider whether they remain relevant and lawful” after a woman was sent home for refusing to wear high heel shoes.

How can our employment law lawyers help?

Understanding employment law is vital for any organisation. Fail to do so and you could be hit with a grievance, and possibly a claim.

While most employers have a grasp of their key responsibilities, there are many areas of the law that are much less straightforward – like the rules around dress codes.

When grievances and disputes with staff happen they take priority, regardless of the distraction this may cause you, and, if you don’t handle them correctly, there’s a real risk that you will end up in the Employment Tribunal.

Our specialist solicitors in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Melton act for businesses large and small in Suffolk, Essex and further afield and can guide you with a minimum of fuss and expense.

To find out how Gotelee can help your organisation, call Andrew West, Employment Partner, on 01473 298102 or email


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