A uniform decision

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John Johnston, head of e-commerce at Workwear Express, highlights some of the most important laws and standards surrounding workplace uniforms in the UK – from avoiding discrimination to uniform tax relief

Uniforms can be a great way for employees to promote a brand, while also making it easy for members of the public to see who they can ask for help. Uniforms can also be effective when it comes to establishing a hierarchy within a team, as managers can be differentiated from more junior members or staff. 

Hospitality workers will usually be required to tie their hair up so that food is not contaminated, highlighting how uniforms can help keep customers safe and content, too. If a job involves employees being on their feet for long periods, comfortable shoes may be mandatory, in order to avoid any injuries. 

Thinking of implementing a uniform policy? Here are some steps you should consider:

1.   Explain the policy, either in a letter or e-mail. This will allow you to detail how you expect your employees to dress for work, ensuring that there is no confusion. 

2.   Within the policy, make it clear whether people in different roles are going to require slightly different uniforms. For example, while working in a restaurant, front-of-house staff may dress differently to wait staff.

3.   To finish off, remind people that there will be consequences for disregarding a uniform policy. However, it will pay to suggest this gently, or there may be animosity – especially for long-standing members of staff who prefer to wear their own clothes. 

Who pays?

Essentially, members of staff are responsible for paying for a uniform – but this does not include PPE. A law passed on the 6th of April 2022 stated that an employer is responsible for providing the relevant PPE, if required, to all employees, no matter their role in the business. 

While there is no legal requirement for an employer to offer financial compensation when it comes to uniforms, some would argue that this is the moral thing to do. Alternatively, a uniform allowance could be allocated, meaning that the uniform can be returned once their employment comes to an end. 

Another option would be to deduct the appropriate amount from an employee’s wage, in order to claim back the cost of the uniform. However, this must be written down and discussed beforehand, otherwise, it would be categorised as an unlawful deduction. 

If you are an employer and have given out uniforms to your members of staff for free, then you will be able to claim the cost back as an expense. This is known as ‘uniform tax’. Unfortunately, employees are not able to claim back expenses for their uniforms, but they can ask for compensation for repairs and cleaning services. 


The Equality Act 2010 states that any kind of discrimination in the workplace should not be tolerated. This also applies to uniforms. For example, people who identify as men and people who identify as women must have the same expectations when it comes to uniforms. 

When it comes to people with disabilities, reasonable adjustments must be made in order to ensure safety and comfort. Religious beliefs and different cultures also need to be taken into account. For example, some people prefer to cover their hair, so banning headwear as part of a uniform policy would not be acceptable for all employees. Men who practise the Sikh religion must wear turbans, which also must be respected in the workplace. 

Implementing a uniform policy shouldn’t be taken lightly; it should be thought through meticulously, and an employer should always take the opinions of their employees into consideration. With this in mind, it could be worth sending around a survey beforehand, to see how your workforce feels about a uniform policy as a whole.

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