Wal-Mart and the importance of a dress code

10 Nov

The right dress code varies based on the company.

The dress code in an office is a difficult matter. Recently, Wal-Mart began requiring its employees to adopt to a new dress code at their own expense. Employees must wear collared shirts and khaki pants, which can be purchased from Wal-Mart's own stores, although this is not necessary.

Many union workers were upset about Wal-Mart's choice, according to Human Resources Executive Online. Current laws allow workers to supply their own uniforms and maintain them at their own expense, although if this results in employee salaries falling below the minimum wage of 7.25 an hour, then this becomes illegal. However, if the uniforms are required because of federal laws – for example, protective equipment for hospital personal or workers at a chemical plant – then the company must supply the uniforms.

Whether uniforms are appropriate for Wal-Mart employees or not, the larger question for the company in particular is the fairness of making people wear a uniform when they are already earning very little money.

"The bigger question here might be the outrage that people feel when they read about it, because after all, the workers [subject to this] are at the bottom of the food chain," said Deborah Weinstein, business professor for Wharton University. "And, we are at a time when people are increasingly concerned about economic inequality in this country."

Dress codes for average companies
Most companies likely won't run into the same issues that Wal-Mart did, but the overall question of whether a dress code is a good idea or not is something every business has to think about – it may inspire new thoughts about employee engagement ideas. Paul Shepherd, founder of Coup Media, reported in the Drum that he believed dress codes are important when meeting with clients, but for everyday business at the office, people should be allowed to wear what they like. Others favor a smart casual look, which means wearing a shirt with a collar and a pair of professional-looking pants.

The ultimate thing to consider is what companies will think of you, and what your employees would naturally wear if given the opportunity to dress for themselves. If they would choose something more plain than a manager would otherwise like for the business, then instituting a mild dress code likely wouldn't be a major fiasco. People in creative industries tend to take great care with their outfits, but other businesses might face problems with people rolling into work with a slovenly outfit that doesn't suit the mood of the company.

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