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With the days heating up, it’s pretty typical to see hemlines rising and necklines plunging. And who doesn’t love to throw on their favorite pair of flip-flops when summer hits? But just because clothing styles usually become a little more laid back and revealing in the summertime doesn’t mean your company dress code should melt away like your ice cream cone.

It’s important to make sure you have a policy in place for work-appropriate dress before the weather gets too steamy. As the days turn hot and hazy, the question becomes: “What is an appropriate summer dress code?”

In short answer, that depends on the workplace.

However, maintaining some general human resources guidelines in establishing a dress code policy can help keep everyone cool as the temperature rises.

Here are some tips on creating your summer dress code policy and keeping your workplace free of summer fashion faux pas!

How To Create Your Summer Dress Code Policy

 “Use Common Sense” Is Not A Policy

Make sure you don’t fall back on the “use common sense” argument. Without specifications to the summer dress code policy, employees will rely on previous experience in other work settings to determine what is appropriate. The same policy may not apply to your workplace. Especially during this time of the year, the lines of what is and isn’t appropriate can easily blur.

Put It In Writing

Put the dress code in writing and deliver it to employees. Place it in the employee handbook and in an easily seen location such as heavily trafficked hallways, meeting rooms, break rooms or restrooms. It may also be a good idea to cover the summer dress code in a team meeting. You could even go as far as asking all staff members to sign a copy of the code. You want to be certain that no one can say they weren’t aware of the rules.

Be Specific

The summer dress code should have definite parameters, and should supply specifics regarding what is not acceptable. Keep in mind that depending on the type of business you are running, the dress code may have to be more or less strict. Here are some considerations and suggestions to get you started:

  • If you expect skirts to be no more than two inches above the knee, you need to tell them exactly that.
  • The same goes with the hemlines of ladies’ trousers in the summer.  If you allow cropped dress pants but don’t allow capris, be sure to make your expectation clear.  The same is true if you allow capris but not over the knee board shorts.
  • Are women allowed to wear sleeveless tops? If so, you may want to make a minimum strap width requirement.
  • No itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny attire! Make sure ladies are keeping bra straps, belly buttons and cleavage under wraps.
  • Let them know that they do need to keep a good, clean appearance. All men’s shirts should be tucked in. Clothing should be ironed, clean and free of holes & stains.  If you have staff who work outside or in non-air conditioned environment, it may be a good idea to recommend to them that they bring a fresh shirt to change at mid-day in order to maintain a fresh appearance.
  • T-shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and athletic wear are not permitted at all.
  • Will you be limiting logo wear to company issued polo shirts and dress shirts?
  • What about jeans in the workplace? Some businesses limit jeans to “jeans days” or Fridays while other companies say that jeans are fine for every day as long as they are clean and professional.
  • Jeggings, baggy jeans, tight jeans, ripped jeans, faded jeans and jeans with rolled cuffs should all be addressed.
  • If your work environment allows shorts, be specific about what is allowed and what is not. For example, if you really only want your field crew wearing Docker or Dickey style khaki work shorts, tell them so, don’t rely on them to figure that this is what they should do.
  • Shoes should be clean and provide safe, secure footing while offering protection against hazards. Men must wear socks. Athletic shoes, slippers and flip-flops are prohibited in most office settings. Open toed shoes are generally off-limits in manufacturing and warehouse businesses for safety reasons.
  • Summertime is also a good time to restate any policies your company may have in regards to tattoos being visible or not.

Explain The Consequences & Exceptions

Your summer dress code policy needs to state the consequences for failing to adhere to the dress code, and it must be applied equally to all employees.

If there are special events or circumstances that would alter the dress code, your policy should also state this and that employees should be advised accordingly.

As with any policy, the key is that if employers don’t communicate the details of what is permitted, employees simply won’t know. So you better stop reading this and get to posting your summer dress code policy before someone has a major summer fashion faux pas!

Want to learn more about how to explain work appropriate clothing to your employees? Check out our previous video blog here.

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.