Dress Codes

I’m looking for a dress code policy which explicitly states there’s no dress code.

My organisation focuses on food rescue. We have a hierarchical/democratic structure (we’re working on less hierarchical). We have 11 active staff. Our staff are very diverse in terms of race, culture, religion, age, ability, class, and gender identity. Our annual turnover is 300k-500k.

We chose not to have a dress code, and that worked when we had 3 employees. However, we recently had an incident where someone told someone else they were dressed inappropriately and that they needed to change.

We didn’t have a policy to point to and say that wasn’t allowed. We want to provide the person with dress code concerns the language and scaffolding to state they were uncomfortable and request something different, while at the same time letting the person who felt confident in their clothing choice know that they do not have to accommodate the request.

This specific incident was a culture clash, someone from a conservative religious culture and someone from a culture that has less rules around their body.


Hi, I have a couple of thoughts from HR resources that may be helpful as starting points for a policy.

You’ll probably want to start with an introductory statement setting out that you embrace the diversity of cultures and religions of everyone in your organisation and that you want everyone to feel comfortable at work and be sensitive to one another when it comes to dress / appearance.

You may also want to add something supportive about people transitioning to live in the gender with which they identify, particularly relevant if you happen to have any uniform / workwear requirements (although doesn’t sound like you do).

If there are any specific circumstances you need to reference e.g. health and safety and wearing protective clothing / safety boots for certain tasks, then include that. If the job involves working with machinery and food, it’s likely you need to include something about hair being tied back and/or covered and not wearing jewellery (except a wedding ring, the usual exemption).

You could also add that you if there are circumstances that make it difficult for someone to follow any agreed dress code baselines (for example, due to a disability or people who are experiencing certain menopausal symptoms), then the aim is to support them to find something that works for them within the general guidelines.

Then it would be setting out any agreements you have for baselines of dress / appearance if you come to any collective agreements on this.

Or a framework for difficult conversations re: dress and appearance.

Hope that helps a bit.


might also be worth checking back with the story from a few years ago about men taking Job Centre Plus to tribunals over unfair dress codes, as these might include some useful referencing and examples to include to keep things equitable and contextualised:



Appreciate everyone’s thoughts. I wanted to include the policy we landed on here.

Sigue en espanol, en la segunda página

Internal Note: This policy was approved by staff. And is open for continued feedback as we learn and practice this policy together.

  • All BFR staff, volunteers and board are invited to show up as their full selves to the work, in all aspects of the ways they represent BFR. Dress and show up as you feel most comfortable.
    • We encourage everyone to challenge capitalist, patriarchal and white supremacist approaches to dress codes and instead consider what makes you feel most comfortable and authentic.
    • These guidelines apply to staff’s physical presentation at work, inclusive of hair styling, clothes, body art and piercings. Be who you are at BFR.
    • For staff who complete food redistribution pickups, please consider food safety including and your own bodily safety and comfort during these job responsibilities.
    • This applies to internal meetings, community events, and all external facing events. Any and all of your work responsibilities.
  • BFR’s Values:
    • BFR’s (anti) dress code embodies BFR values to create space where all staff can show up as our full selves. This includes creating a space that creates physical and emotional safety, while challenging societal systems that attempt to regulate bodies.
    • Creating such a space includes acknowledging staff’s presentation can be a choice for employees to reflect their cultural, religious, and personal values and full self, and also be vital for their safety and ability to participate fully in the work. We see this as a shift from how many are not often permitted the space and protection to be their full selves in public spaces, and intend to create an intentional space within our organization and the communities we partner with.
  • Collective Accountability:
    • We respect each staff member’s personal identity and presentation, including the dress they choose for work. Recognizing one’s gender identity, disability, culture, faith, and access to gender affirming health care and economic stability could impact their dress and presentation. We respect each individual’s autonomy and values and ability to make their own decisions around how to dress.
    • Everyone is accountable for their own behavior. We hope that our physical appearance is the least interesting thing about our organization, and encourage others to not comment and center the physical appearance of others.
    • Public or group discussion of others’ identities or dress does not create a respectful space for everyone. In line with the organization’s value around transparent and open communication, we ask that if you would like to voice questions or discomforts with another staff member’s personal choice around dress, to bring those to the individual directly by asking if they are open to discussion-while respecting their choices and values as their own. Public or group discussion of others’ identities or dress does not create a respectful space for everyone.
    • If you have concerns about organizational policies, speak directly with your supervisor or a co-director.

Nota interna: este es un BORRADOR y será modificado con los aportes del personal. Por favor no compartan a fuera de la organización.

  • Todo el personal de BFR, voluntarios y la junta directiva están invitados a presentarse con sus identidades completas a trabajar. Vistiendo y presentándose de la manera que usted se sienta más cómodo.
    • Le animamos a todos a retar a los enfoques capitalistas, patriarcales y de supremacía blanca en referencia a los códigos de vestimenta y en vez, considerar que es lo que lo hace sentir más cómodo y auténtico.
    • Estas guías se aplican a la presentación física del personal en el trabajo, inclusivo de los estilos de peinados, vestimentas, arte y perforaciones corporales. Sea usted mismo en BFR.
    • Para el personal que este completando la recolección de redistribución de alimentos, por favor considere la seguridad alimentaria incluyendo su propia seguridad y confort corporal durante estas responsabilidades laborales.
  • Valores en BFR:
    • El (anti) código de vestimenta de BFR personifica los valores de BFR para crear un espacio donde todo el personal pueda presentarse con su identidad completa. Esto incluye la creación de un espacio que cree seguridad física y emocional, mientras reta a los sistemas sociales que intentan controlar los cuerpos.
    • El crear tal espacio incluye el reconocimiento que la presentación del personal puede ser una decisión para que los empleados reflejen sus valores culturales, religiosos y personales con sus identidades completas. También es vital para su seguridad y su habilidad de participar completamente en el trabajo. Nosotros vemos esto como un cambio para los muchos que no son permitidos frecuentemente el espacio y protección de ser ellos mismos en espacios públicos, y tenemos la intención de crear un espacio intencional dentro de nuestra organización y las comunidades con las que colaboramos.
  • Responsabilidad colectiva:
    • Nosotros respetamos la identidad y presentación personal de cada miembro del personal, incluyendo la vestimenta que escojan utilizar para el trabajo. El reconocer la identidad de género, discapacidad, cultura, y acceso a cuidados médicos que afirman el género y la estabilidad económica podría impactar su vestimenta y presentación. Nosotros respetamos la autonomía y valores de cada individuo y su habilidad de tomar sus propias decisiones en referencia a lo que quieran vestir.
    • Cada quien es responsable de su propio comportamiento. Nosotros tenemos la esperanza que nuestra apariencia física sea la cosa menos interesante sobre nuestra organización, y animamos a otros a no comentar y centrar la apariencia física de otros.
    • La discusión pública o en grupo sobre las identidades o vestimenta de otros no crea un espacio respetuoso para todos. En alineación con los valores de esta organización en referencia a la comunicación transparente y abierta, le pedimos que si usted quiere presentar sus preguntas o las cosas que lo incomodan sobre las decisiones personales de otro miembro del personal, hable con aquellos individuos directamente por medio de preguntarles si ellos están abiertos a una discusión mientras respeta sus decisiones y valores como si fueran los suyos. La discusión pública o en grupo sobre las identidades o vestimenta de otros no crea un espacio respetuoso para todos.
    • Si tiene preocupaciones sobre las políticas de la organización, hablé directamente con su supervisor o con un co-director.
1 Like

Thank you so much for sharing this! Have read through a couple of times and it seems really thought through and nuanced, and like it’s really trying to take into account different needs and build care and respect across potential difference (also I love the line 'we hope our physical appearance is the least interesting thing about our organisation!). Would you be up for sharing the policy in our policy library as well? (you can upload it here Policy Upload | RadHR). Think it will be thought provoking for people beyond the specific dress code context.
Thanks again