Watch our webinar! “Tricky sickness issues”

Personnel: Rules on employee appearance in company regulations

Publication date: 23 March 2017
Employers can determine rules on clothing and appearance in company regulations. What do employers have to keep in mind when setting such rules?

kledingvoorschrift-social-media.f0005e

Employers may determine rules regarding the clothing and appearance of employees. However, this authority is not unlimited as can be seen from two recent rulings of the Court of Justice.

The first ruling held that a security company can order its personnel to wear neutral clothing and thus can prohibit clothing associated with religion, such as a headscarf. However, the second ruling held that a secondment agency for IT professionals was not allowed to dismiss an employee who did not comply with the request of a client not to wear a headscarf anymore. What do employers have to keep in mind when setting dress codes for their personnel?

Company regulations

The employer can only hold the employees to comply with the rules if these rules are known to the employees. You can ensure this by including a dress code and grooming standards in company regulations. It is important that these company regulations will then be actually enforced with regard to all employees they apply to.

No forbidden discrimination

It is not permitted to violate in a regulation the right to equal treatment, one of the most important fundamental rights. A ban on all expressions of faith (headscarf, cross, skullcap) therefore is forbidden discrimination.

A neutral provision can also discriminate against employees of a certain faith or gender. For instance, the requirement of a receptionist to wear high heels regards women only. Such indirect discrimination is only permitted if the employer has a good reason for the rule and this rule is appropriate and necessary to meet this goal.

In brief, a ban on headscarves is therefore not allowed, the obligation to wear neutral clothes may well be allowed.

Good reasons for rules

It is important for employers to have good reason for rules. Safety, hygiene, but also the requirement for conformity and representativity can be good reasons. If the reasons of the employer are good enough, depends, among other things, on the following:

  • The position of the employee. Does he or she have a representative position or only internal contact?
  • The location where the employer is established. Generally, more things will be accepted in the Randstad area than in the rest of the Netherlands.
  • The industry and the activities of the employer. Is wearing a uniform or occupational clothing customary? Is protective clothing required?
  • Current social views. Men’s earrings or tattoos are now seen differently than forty years ago.

Setting a dress code to comply with the requirements of a client can be good reason only if the requirements of the client are based on a legitimate goal, which biases by the client or his employees are obviously not.

Being a good employer and being a good employee

If the employer sets rules that restrict the rights of the employees, the employer can be expected to offer the employees, if possible, an alternative to the regulation, for instance, a position with less or no face-to-face client contact. However, the employee can also be expected to comply with reasonable requests by the employer, such as to wear clothes that cover tattoos or to remove piercings.

If a company has a works council, company regulations and changes to them cannot be introduced without permission by the works council.

More information

Would you like to draft a dress code or grooming standards for your employees? Or would you like to learn more about company regulations? Please contact us:

    Share on social media

    • Employment law and dismissal

    Three important topics to include in your employment contract under Dutch, US and UK law

    15 July 2021

    In the last issue of Stare Decisis, Priscilla de Leede of Russell Advocaten, Mary Edenfield of Mateer Harbert and Ed Belam of Marriott Harrison discuss the most important topics to include in your employment contracts regarding the termination of the contract. There are some important differences to take into account!

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Dismissal of sick statutory director

    18 June 2021

    A sick employee may not be dismissed. However, an employee who knows of imminent dismissal, cannot avoid this by reporting sick. But when does the employee know that this is the case? This question was central to the court case concerning the dismissal of a CFO of Volksbank.

    read on
    • Expats
    • Employment law and dismissal

    17 June 2021: Employment Webinar “Tricky sickness issues”

    17 June 2021

    If your employee reports sick, this may raise many difficult questions. What are your reintegration obligations during the sick leave period? What are you allowed to record about your sick employee with regard to the privacy legislation? We answered these and other questions during a webinar. Watch the video!

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Be careful with the employer’s statement!

    14 June 2021

    Before obtaining a mortgage or rental contract, banks or landlords often ask for an employer’s statement. Such a statement can sometimes have unintended consequences for the employer. What do you need to be aware of?

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Statutory minimum wage as of 1 July 2021

    2 June 2021

    As of 1 July 2021, the statutory minimum wage and minimum youth wage will be increased. What are the new amounts of the minimum wage?

    read on
    • Works Council
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Works council

    4 May 2021

    Is there already a works council in your company? Are you a member of your company’s works council? What are the advantages of having a works council in your company? Jan Dop and Priscilla C.X. de Leede explain the role of the works council and give an overview of the works council’s most important rights.

    read on
    • Expats
    • Administrative law and the environment

    The Netherlands: Gateway to Europe

    3 May 2021

    The Netherlands likes to present itself as “the gateway to Europe.” And not without reason: excellent travel connections (Schiphol Amsterdam Airport and Rotterdam Seaport) and a highly educated population speaking several languages.

    read on
    • Art
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Russell Advocaten recommended by The Legal 500 2021

    20 April 2021

    Russell Advocaten has for the 17th consecutive year in a row been included in The Legal 500. We are pleased with the recognition for the quality of our legal services by experts and clients. Please read what they say about us:

    read on