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General comments on uniforms

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Some restaurant companies underscored the value of uniforms and dress codes in promoting the company brand, ensuring a professional and consistent look, distinguishing staff from patrons, and addressing health and safety-related concerns (such as non-slip footwear, reducing risk of accidents relating to jewelry, and not getting hair in food). These are all legitimate business interests, as long as the requirements do not have a discriminatory Code-related impact.

Some companies with multiple restaurant brands noted that one or more of their brands already had dress codes that were essentially the same for all staff. However, some of these companies still identified opportunities to update policies to make them more inclusive.  

A few companies stated that they seek and incorporate staff input about dress codes. This is a positive step that can help to reduce concerns. However, different employees may have different Code-related needs, and are affected in different ways by dress code requirements. Employers must take proactive steps to make their policies as inclusive as possible and have processes for accommodation of Code-related needs, and to address complaints about the dress code.

Companies varied in degree of flexibility and staff choice in work clothing, such as:

  • Staff choose their own clothing within general colour and style guidelines
  • Commercially available clothing from a list of prescribed options
  • A mix of self-bought and proprietary clothing
  • Almost entirely proprietary clothing.

Companies can have clothing and grooming requirements for staff to that are in line with their corporate brand and/or meet their corporate goals. Companies should be aware, however, that the more prescriptive their requirements, the more likely they are to create barriers for staff, such as:

  • Sexualizing or subjecting women to different standards
  • Discriminatory impacts based on religious belief (e.g. jewelry restrictions, “clean shaven” men, hair or head cover), gender expression or sexual orientation.
  • Excluding a pregnant person, who may be unable to wear a proprietary uniform or designated style of top or pants.

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