A staff uniform is a common thing to find in many workplaces and can take many different forms, from polo shirts to sportswear, tabards, and heavy-duty workwear. It can help with business branding, protects the wearer and their clothing, and provides a sense of team spirit amongst all of the staff.
It can be a very important tool, but who is responsible for paying for it? Is a uniform something that an employer is legally bound to supply, or do they have the right to ask employees to pay for it themselves?
Who is responsible for a business uniform?
The decision to include a uniform in a workplace is usually to provide unity and equality amongst the employees. Including uniforms helps everyone to feel part of the business and that everyone is on the same level, promoting respect towards others. It can have an impact on productivity and employee engagement but there is no legal obligation for an employer to pay for uniforms.
It is unusual for an employer not to provide at least some sets of uniforms, depending on the number of hours you are required to work, but they may ask for a contribution if you want more than the allocated amount. Employers need to be careful that making deductions from wages to pay for uniforms does not cause that wage to dip below the National Minimum Wage as they will then be breaking the law.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
No business has to include a uniform, but many often do. However, whilst branded t-shirts and hats might be a good marketing tool, there are certain items of clothing that are legally required from a health and safety perspective. All employees should be kept safe whenever they are in the workplace, and that means that any protective items need to be provided by the employer.
This refers to safety equipment, but also clothing, so it is important to make sure that all staff have the clothing that they need to do their job safely. Any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is considered essential to protect them from hazardous materials, and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that this is available to any staff who need it.
This might include gloves, goggles, face masks, earmuffs, and helmets.
Employers cannot charge employees for PPE, but they do have the right to ask for it back when the employment contract is terminated. If it is not returned, they may pursue the cost by deducting it from any outstanding wages, but this does need to be stipulated in the contract of employment.
Caring for a uniform
Whether an employee has paid for their uniform or not, it is their responsibility to ensure that it is clean and in good order. This means that they will be required to wash it, and in some cases repair it, but they are able to claim tax relief for doing so.
Whilst there is some clothing that an employer is legally required to provide, the other aspects of a uniform are discretionary. However, it is worth remembering that if a member of staff is required to pay for the privilege to come to work, they may reconsider working for the business at all, and this will significantly narrow the pool of talent that is available to recruit.
By providing at least some sets of the uniform that need to be worn, an employer can show that they care about their employees and can eliminate any excuses as to why someone might not be keeping up to the standards that they expect.
Ask a lawyer for any questions about providing staff with uniforms or other workwear.