Can a school enforce a staff dress code?

Overview

You may have a staff dress code policy at your school. Your employment contract may not refer to what you can explicitly wear, although, it will probably mention that all teachers are expected to adhere to the school’s policies and procedures.

In the majority of cases, keeping to a dress code should not be an issue. However, there may be some occasions which could lead you to concern. Legally, headteachers can introduce a dress code, but cannot impose something that could be interpreted as constituting sexual, racial or religious discrimination in accordance to the Equality Act 2010.

What happens at the majority of schools?

We have conducted extensive research looking at a variety of dress code policies from primary and secondary schools. The majority of school policies explain that staff should wear “smart business dress” or “professional attire”. This will often involve wearing smart suits or separate jacket/trouser/skirt combinations with formal footwear. Men may also be required to wear a tie or to wear jackets when outside the classroom.

The policies we examined also explain that “extreme fashions” are not acceptable, including clothes and visible body piercing, except in the ears and nose. In addition, the policies also outline that “extreme hairstyles” are banned, visible tattoos are discouraged, and jewellery should be discreet.

Generally, the way you dress should not be detrimental to your role or deemed to be unsafe or inappropriate.

Can I wear religious dress?

As part of the Equality Act 2010 you should not be discriminated against for wearing religious dress. Any form of dress should not interfere with the teaching and learning process, and pupils should be able to see your face. Turbans, hijabs, kippah and headscarves should be allowed but should not compromise health and safety.

We have published another article which summarises the Equality Act 2010.

Can I face a disciplinary sanction because of the way I dress?

If you are consistently breaching your dress code policy you could be taken to a disciplinary meeting at your school. If there is concern about the way you dress, ideally, this should be discussed with your line manager before the issue escalates.

If you have any concerns or feel you are being discriminated against because of the way you dress please contact us.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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