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John Bidder: Christmas Jumper Day and Dress Code

Friday 15 December 2017

John Bidder discusses dress codes on Christmas Jumper Day.

John Bidder John Bidder, Information Guidance Advisor

John Bidder has worked for Acas for 20 years. 

During that time he's undertaken a number of roles including conciliator, mediator and staff trainer and currently works as an information guidance adviser.


Scrooges, grinches and humbug purveyors beware! It's Christmas Jumper Day. This is the day when fashion sense, sartorial style and elegance goes out of the window. A good Christmas jumper is garish and makes those who wear them look faintly, if not completely, ridiculous, but remember it's a bit of festive fun and it's all done for charity!

Christmas jumper (image from @Acas_Scot)

Christmas Jumper Day is an event that my office looks forward to and it's all for a good cause. Many employers are only too keen to allow a little early festive spirit in the workplace and to relax their dress code policy for the one day. However, dress codes do play an important role in the workplace as they set clear dress standards for employees to adhere to and to reflect the company's image. No one would really expect to meet their solicitor to discuss a complex legal issue and be greeted by them in flip-flops and shorts! So what exactly is a workplace dress code?

A dress code is a set of standards that employers develop to provide their employees with guidance about what is appropriate and acceptable to wear to work. They also often cover expected standards relating to personal grooming, personal appearance and hygiene. Guidance relating to tattoos, jewellery, hairstyles and facial hair can also be included.

Dress codes can also have the purpose of projecting the employer's image to the public. A very good example of this is the dress code for cabin staff of a leading airline. Elements of their dress code include:

  • worn up hairstyles must be neat and tidy with no wispy bits
  • jackets to be worn fastened at all times
  • hats to be worn when walking through the airport and in the public eye.

Employers should ensure that no rule is applied to only men or only women unless there is a valid reason for the rule. For example, it would be acceptable to rule that men (but not women) should wear a tie while at work, provided that a similar standard of smartness was applied to women.

An area where conflict can arise is where a company's dress code is at odds with an employee's wish to adhere to their religious beliefs. Employers should also bear this in mind when rules on dress temporarily change, for example on Christmas Jumper Day. Employers and fellow employees should be considerate of members of staff who may not want to participate due to their religious beliefs or other reasons. 

When putting together a dress code it is good practice to consult with employees, especially if it is to impact on a substantial number of employees of a particular religion. The best way to avoid these problems is to be as non-specific as possible. A widely worded dress code requiring smart appearance, with non-binding examples of suitable dress, rarely falls foul of specific clothing-related beliefs.

If you'd like more information about dress codes, take a look at the Acas website and if you are in any doubt about what you can wear at work, including on Christmas Jumper Day, speak to your line manager.

But on the day itself, hopefully you - like me - will be able to put your hand in your pocket, put on your Christmas jumper and get Rudolf's nose flashing!

Image courtesy of Acas Scotland's Twitter feed - @Acas_Scot.

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