Designing the dress code for your practice is a balancing act between what can be distracting or even offensive to other workers, versus strict policies that infringe upon employees’ preferences and beliefs. Some considerations when you are fashioning your policy include:
- What is your practice “culture”, and how does it relate to your dress code? Do you encourage individualism, so everyone can wear their own choice in scrubs? Or do you encourage a unified team approach, dressing everyone in approved colors? Or are you somewhere in the middle and appreciate both, so that the proper color is "blue" but it can be any number of hues and tones of blue?
- Where is your practice located, and how does your culture reflect the regional demographics surrounding your practice? Are you in a young, hip area where tattoos and piercings are the norm? Or are you in a retirement community that is much more conservative?
When writing a policy, make sure it is comprehensive, and covers anything you care about including:
- Tattoos…where they are placed, as well as the nature of those left visible (if you're allowing visible tattoos, could they be of an offensive nature to others?)
- Piercings…where, and how they should be protected (provide for your employee's safety as well)
- Jewelry…some of this could pose a hazard, such as hoop earrings that can get caught with a paw or claw, or necklaces that make distracting noises (bells, etc.)
- Type of clothes (including shoes…remember, OSHA may have something to say about this!)
- Condition of clothes (including shoes)…even if they're wearing the right thing, how do those articles look? Visibly wrinkled pants? Shoes with worn out holes?
When writing a policy, also build in some flexibility for the company to make a judgment, for example allowing:
- Tattoos that are "not offensive or distracting"
- Piercings that are "excessive or inappropriate"
- Alterations to body for "verified" religious reasons
Provide a description of how some alterations can be modified while at work, such as:
- Piercings must have clear retainers in place
- Tattoos can be covered with skin tone make-up, but not bandages
- Remember that aside from being distracting and/or offensive, the way we allow our employees to dress can also help establish an environment that does not provoke or tolerate sexual harassment…a good reason to prohibit cleavage both in front AND in back! (statements regarding tank tops and long shirts under scrubs can help)
Finally, as in all things "policy", be certain you are applying your dress code consistently!