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Some of the positive and most common changes restaurant companies made to their dress code and related policies were:


  • Added pants options for all staff in all positions, instead of requiring women in any position to wear skirts, dresses or kilts
  • Ensured that women and men’s pants options are equivalent (not just yoga pants or skinny jeans for women and straight-cut jeans for men)
  • Allowed more coverage for women staff:
    • added the option of wearing tights with a skirt or kilt (rather than bare leg, sheer hose or sock requirements)
    • allow for longer skirts, dress and/or kilts by changing the proprietary skirt, dress or kilt options, allowing staff to choose their own, or specifying a minimum length
    • added options like tops with longer sleeves and/or higher necklines, button-up shirts, and cardigans, jackets or blazers
  • Changed policies so all front-of-house staff, or all staff in each position, have the same gender-neutral dress code descriptions.

Accessories and grooming

Many companies identified and removed sex-specific requirements in these aspects of their dress codes:

  • Accessories
    • removed jewelry requirements, or
    • clarified that jewelry is optional, before setting out any guidelines or recommendations
  • Amended grooming standards to:
    • remove requirements that female staff wear makeup or nail polish
    • clarify that makeup and/or nail polish are optional before setting out any guidelines
    • remove requirements that staff wear their hair down.

Accommodation and complaint policies

Most companies said they developed or amended statements, policies and processes to address complaints and dress code accommodation requests. For example, many included:

  • Titles of people to whom complaints and accommodation requests could be made, such as shift managers and/or site managers
  • Names and/or titles of persons to whom issues can be escalated, if they are not appropriately addressed at the initial complaint or request level, such as
    • owners/franchisees
    • human resources contacts, and/or company leadership/head office contacts, with contact details

Several larger companies also provided anonymous or confidential email, online or telephone hotline contacts for staff complaints.

Communicating policies and amendments to staff

Companies described several ways that dress code changes have been communicated to staff, such as:

  • Discussions at board, operations and management meetings
  • Staff meetings in each restaurant/location
  • Amendments to hard copies of employee handbooks/manuals, and
    • providing manuals to every employee at hire
    • keeping a hard copy at each restaurant site
  • Attaching memos about dress code changes to employee pay stubs
  • Posting dress code policies and posters in staff areas of each restaurant location
  • Posting policies/manuals online.

Additional statements, policies and actions affirming gender equality and safe and positive workplaces

Many companies described other efforts to create more equitable environments based on sex and gender, and create positive, safe and welcoming environments. For example:

  • JOEY stated that its commitment to advancing women into leadership roles means that women now occupy 51% of salaried management positions
  • Imago introduced gender-neutral washrooms and posted signs in washrooms and staff rooms about the right to safety relating to gender, and received positive feedback from patrons and staff about both measures
  • Statements of commitment to provide a fair and inclusive workplace
  • Several companies – such as Cara, Cactus Club and Shoeless Joe’s – have policy statements and/or training that reference employee protections in health and safety, employment standards, human rights, workplace sexual harassment and violence, and other legislation, and indicate their commitment to comply
  • SIR Corp’s policies include a statement that all uniform options are available to all staff based on personal preference, regardless of gender identity
  • The Keg and Earls report that they monitoring concerns and compliance with policies through employee surveys. The Keg also includes availability of gender-neutral dress options at all locations as part of regular site audits
  • Some companies with operations outside of Ontario said they have also implemented their dress code changes in operations in other provinces and the USA.

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