Be Clear About Your Summer Dress Policy

Be Clear About Your Summer Dress Policy

CJC Employer Trends, Employment, Work Culture

The workplace is becoming increasingly informal, but if your organization has a summer (or relaxed or causal) dress policy, it must be clearly defined to avoid problems.

According to a recent OfficeTeam survey of senior managers, U.S. workers are dressing more casually than they did five years ago. Nearly half of respondents said that their employees’ work attire is overly casual and one-third said that it’s too revealing.

An employer’s dress code is tied to its brand and can impact organizational morale, while inappropriate attire can be distracting and even worse, inflammatory.

One week in to official summer, more and more people may start testing the bounds of what to wear in the workplace. To prevent the display of halter tops, short shorts, flip flops and offensive tees, now is the time to remind employees about the dress code policy.

Be Specific—Examples Are Key

First off, a written dress code policy should leave no doubt in a person’s mind about what is acceptable for your organization. The policy should provide examples of appropriate and inappropriate dress. It should be stressed that managers and supervisors will determine if an employee is dressed inappropriately for the workplace and can ask him or her to go home and change to comply with the policy. Exemptions from the policy should also be clear, such as when employees have in-person contact with customers or clients.

Typical examples of appropriate summer clothing for the office may include:

  • Casual pants, capri pants, dresses and professional skirts and shorts for women. For shorts and skirts, a hem line slightly above the knee is often considered appropriate.
  • Business-appropriate casual shirts, polo shirts and blouses.
  • Dress sandals for women.
  • Non-offensive T-shirts.
  • Tennis shoes.
  • Jeans.

Typical wardrobe no-no’s include:

  • Athletic clothing, including tight-fitting stretch pants and leggings.
  • Shorts for men, beachwear, halter tops and tank tops.
  • Flip-flops.
  • Revealing mini-dresses/skirts, or low-cut blouses.
  • Visible undergarments.
  • Clothing with offensive, political or religious messages.

How to Handle Dress Code Violations

When addressing a “dress code malfunction,” keep the conversation respectful and demonstrate consistency. Approach offending employees with tact and sensitivity. They may not realize that they are violating the dress code. Younger workers especially may be unfamiliar with professional office attire. Always have the conversation in private and strongly consider whether or not the violation merits a trip back home to change.

It’s also important to enforce the policy consistently. Be careful not to hold female workers or younger workers to different standards than your male employees or more senior staff.

For assistance with policy development, or coaching employees, contact CJC HR Services at or (212)584-4770. Happy summer!