As office clothes become more informal, stylists are called in to help bosses write new dress codes. Alice Peacock Reports
When a manager at an accounting firm saw an employee standing at the office photocopier in Ugg boots, she knew it was time to implement a dress code.
The boss called the stylist Jackie O & # 39; Fee and said, "I need you to come in here and talk to my people."
"She was really worried, like, what the hell?", Says O & # 39; Fee.
"I mean, Ugg boots are slippers."
O & # 39; Fee, who runs the Signature Style office in Auckland, says he has seen a renaissance of dress codes for office workers.
"In general, we are seeing a much more relaxed appearance, much less corporate.
"But many organizations are really struggling with people who are taking the mickey, or pushing the boundaries much further than they would like."
"The only way to address it is to write a very specific dress code."
After the incident with the Ugg boot, O & # 39; Fee helped write a new dress code for the accounting firm, with images that illustrate & # 39; two & # 39; (proper footwear) and "do not do" (Broken jeans and anything you can see "up, down or down" ").
Giving employees the parameters to work within helps avoid misinterpretation, but O & # 39; Fee sometimes hears about retraction, particularly from younger workers.
Workers between the ages of 20 and 30 who leave the university and do office work sometimes interpret an elegant casual dress code in a way that many managers consider inappropriate, she says.
"Many of these younger girls dress up in things that are too short and tight.
"That is a problem for many managers and a difficult conversation for them, because how do you tell a subordinate that she is dressing up with something that is too tight and distracting? The girls get funny about it, but it's a reality."
O & # 39; Fee says that a formal and written dress code policy can help, allowing employers to back them up legally if they face any problem.
SSometimes, it is the newest and most recent employees who influence managers to introduce a dress code.
Colin Henderson, managing partner of audit at RSM, says that most of his team are younger workers and that they were partly the motivation for the change. He works in the company's office in Newmarket, which has a dress code separate from the broader international firm.
When employee Andrew Dickson, fresh out of college, came through the front door during the first day of his audit job, the 20-year-old felt a little out of place.
"I put on suit pants, obviously, a good pair of business shoes and a dress shirt," says Dickson.
"But when I went that first day, I was the only one who did not wear a jacket."
He says he felt ill dressed and uncomfortable. While he had been buying some work suits, he did not own a complete suit, nor did he want to.
"I thought:" Oh no, they'll see me, I'm not complying with the dress policy ".
Two years later, Dickson continues to reject the jacket, but he is not alone.
After a successful three-month trial, RSM has implemented a new dress code, which goes from being smart for business to informal.
A document describing the new policy dictates that employees still must comply with the original code when they are out of the office meeting with clients. But inside, the poles and the Chinese are fine, just like the jeans, if they are the type that will not offend your great-aunt in a family function. Shorts and short skirts are still a no-go, just like coaches, flip flops, sandals and hiking boots. The policy also includes indicators on hygiene and personal presentation.
Dickson says he believes in dressing to look good. But he does not believe that daily work should involve dressing with anything that makes him feel uncomfortable.
"I think that some people in the work environment are afraid that if we dress casually, we will also start acting more informally.
"But mentally, the way I dress will make me feel more comfortable, it will not make me less productive."
In addition, Dickson acknowledges that he was hired for his skill and work ethic, not for his wardrobe.
He believes that certain aspects of the new policy are indicative of the generation that wrote it. One rule dictates that men should not wear shoes without socks.
"But a lot of our generation likes the look without a sock." I do not see any problem with that, I mean, if you're wearing a nice pair of pants, a nice clean cut shirt and a couple of Right shoes, so I do not see that I do not wear socks, since it seems less casual than someone with socks, maybe they think we're showing too much skin? "
TThe airline industry has historically been strict about the appearance of employees, although Air New Zealand is reviewing the standards of cleanliness for flight attendants.
A spokeswoman says the company is considering abandoning or relaxing makeup requirements. This follows Virgin Atlantic's announcement that flight attendants will no longer have to wear makeup.
The Air New Zealand recruiting website tells potential flight attendants to "invest in a long-term base that does not dry out their skin," and to "use a good primer to make sure their base stays in place. "
The airline has been repeatedly attacked for its position on tattoos. Earlier this year, Whangārei's man, Sydney Heremaia, was rejected for a customer service role because his tāmoko "did not meet uniform standards for the roles that wear the Koru uniform."
A Jetstar spokesman says his grooming policy also requires cabin crews to wear makeup while in uniform. There are no plans to change the policy.
Dress code policies must be consistent with New Zealand laws, including the Labor Relations Act 2000, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Human Rights Act of 1993.
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission says that the Human Rights Law establishes prohibited grounds for discrimination. The appearance or hairstyle requirements specific to a religion or ethnic origin, such as a turban or certain piercings, are protected by law. According to the act, a person of Maori descent should not be denied employment, entry to premises or service refused because of his visible use of tāmoko.
The HRC can intervene when employees are concerned, but if it is not resolved, they can file their complaint with the independent Human Rights Review Tribunal.
"In general, the commission encourages employers to consult with employees when establishing and updating work dress policies," the spokesperson says.
The Occupational Health and Safety Law says that a workplace should establish requirements around "personal protective equipment", including work clothes.
"In some circumstances, certain hairstyles, jewelry or clothing can constitute a risk in the workplace and fall within the provisions of the Act," says a spokesman.
The Labor Relations Act establishes the general legal framework for employment agreements and contracts.
In the justice industry, a formal dress code has been expected.
The Law Society advises a dark suit or skirt with a white shirt or blouse, a tie for men, black shoes and socks or dark stockings.
While there is no official dress code for the media or viewers, the Ministry of Justice website asks journalists, camera operators, sound technicians and photographers to go to court "properly dressed and professional".
A Newswire reporter from New Zealand wearing shiny gold pants was ordered out of the media bank in the Wellington High Court while covering the Scott Guy trial in 2012.
The preparation of Laura McQuillan caused a storm online, and Twitter users debated whether their "nightclub pants" were appropriate for a murder trial.
McQuillan defended her choice of clothes on Twitter and said: "I'm sitting under a table! You do not even see my legs! I do not know why people are acting as if they've never seen sequined pants before."
In 2016, British temporary worker Nicola Thorp started a discussion on work clothes after she was sent home without paying for her "unacceptable" flat shoes.
Thorp, an actress based in London, was doing temporary work with the external services reception company Portico, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. He was told to go to stores and buy a pair of 2 to 4 inch heels. She refused and was sent home.
In response, Thorp launched an online petition, prompting a change in the law that makes it illegal for companies to force women to wear high heels to work.
The issue was discussed in the UK Parliament, where the Equality Bureau found that existing legislation prohibiting discrimination is "adequate".
While there was no change in the law, the Petitions Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament, as well as the Commission of Joint Women with Equality, published a report on the subject about a year later. The report calls for a review of this area of the law.
"We listened to hundreds of women who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by the use of high heels during long periods of work in the workplace, as well as women who had been asked to dye them. blonde hair, wearing revealing dresses and constantly reapplying makeup, "reads the report summary.
"The government must do more to promote understanding of the law on gender discrimination in the workplace between employees and employers."
In March, the multinational investment bank and the financial services company Goldman Sachs relaxed their dress code for all their employees, adopting a "completely flexible and firm dress code".
A note written by Chief Executive David Solomon did not specify what clothing was appropriate.
The New Zealand men's clothing store and the Munns suit rental business is closing its doors, after more than 100 years of operations. Three stores in Auckland and three more in Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch will be closed in a few weeks.
The movement occurs as co-owner Wally Wilson says Things Trade has become difficult, as clothing trends are more informal
SUBWAYurray Crane, founder of male clothing retailer Crane Brothers, agrees that men's workwear is changing from one industry to another. In many offices, people are giving up a two-piece suit in favor of a blazer and chinos, or jeans.
But not everyone enjoys the choice, nor the need to coordinate the outfits.
"Many men simply do not have the ability to do that, or the mental capacity to want to do it five days a week, 48 weeks a year.
"They like the ease of wearing a white business shirt and a dark suit."
But Crane is noticing a resurgence in the popularity of tuxedos and formal dark suits, a chain effect of casual work clothes.
"Because many of our clients dress more informally for work, it is having an inverse effect on the way they dress when they have a special occasion.
"We're getting boys, particularly younger guys, to come and tell us: I've never had the opportunity to wear a suit at work, so I'd like to have a very nice suit for my wedding."
But he says that some aspects of the change could be recovered. He has heard from several clients at larger companies in New Zealand that they are reconsidering the changes they have allowed.
On the other hand, a generalized informalization of the workforce may be here to stay.
"It's a gradual change that keeps happening," says Crane.
Either way, O & # 39; Fee says that bosses who have invested time and money in their workers have the right to expect their team to represent their brand the way they want.
What if the employees do not agree with this? Jackie says that this could be an indication that they should find a workplace that is more suited to the culture.
"Do not be the jarring note," she says.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
For the employer:
• Employers are entitled to the expectation that their team will abide by the organization's reasonable and legal dress code policy.
• A conversation with an employee who does not adhere to a dress code policy should be based on the job requirements and objective non-compliance of the policy, rather than a subjective personal criticism.
• Employers can issue a warning to an employee if they do not follow a reasonable and legal instruction on compliance with the dress code.
For the employee:
• Employees have the right not to be discriminated against by dress code policies that include unreasonable rules that are gender-specific, or prevent them, without good reason, from wearing articles or hairstyles of religious or cultural importance.
• An employer is required to adapt to the practices and clothing of a religion, as long as the necessary adjustment does not unreasonably interrupt the employer's activities. Health and safety considerations may be relevant.
• A worker can seek an explanation from his employer about why they can not use something that aligns with their religious beliefs or is culturally important.
Source: Dundas Street Lawyers.