Firms dressing down as temperatures rise

FORMALITY is being partially abandoned in East Anglian workplaces as sweltering heat causes employers to loosen their dress codes - and their top buttons.

FORMALITY is being partially abandoned in East Anglian workplaces as sweltering heat causes employers to loosen their dress codes - and their top buttons.

As the mercury rises, employers are allowing staff to dress for the weather - but bare male legs still appear to be a step too far in the more traditional professions.

The TUC yesterday launched a “cool work” campaign aimed at encouraging companies in the UK to follow Japan's lead and relax their dress codes.

Last year, in an attempt to reduce energy consumption, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took off his tie and urged his country's workforce to leave their jackets and ties at home. The aim was to encourage employers to turn down the air conditioning or do away with it altogether during their humid summer season.

The TUC is arguing that employers providing a cool and comfortable work environment combined with a relaxed dress code will get more out of staff as well as saving on energy bills and helping the environment by allowing air conditioning units to be turned down a notch.

However, it says it does recognise that for employees attending important meetings or those dealing with the public, it might not be appropriate to turn up in clothes more suitable for the beach.

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East Anglian employers, even in the more traditionally sober professions, such as accountancy and law, appear to have already embraced a less restrictive attitude towards clothes during the hotter months.

Roger Girling, a partner at accountancy firm Larking Gowen, said they let male staff remove their ties and wear short sleeves.

“We do have a dress code, but we take a pragmatic view in the hot summer days and allow people to dress down,” he said. “It's trying to keep an appropriate presentation and we try and make the office as comfortable as possible anyway with air conditioning units.”

But shorts still didn't pass muster, he added, although he wasn't aware the issue had even cropped up. “I think it depends how far you want to take it,” he said. “I'm not sure clients would like to see my hairy legs.”

Andrew West, a partner at solicitors Gotelee & Goldsmith, said while they relaxed dress codes to suit the weather, staff meeting clients were still expected to dress appropriately with a shirt and tie, but not necessarily a jacket.

“Some people come into work in shorts but then get changed,” he said. However, courts and tribunals were formal and they would have to dress accordingly, he added.

A spokeswoman for Pretty's solicitors said although they did not have an official policy, they did expect staff to “dress appropriately”.

“Shorts and jeans are frowned upon, but we wouldn't expect staff to dress in jackets and ties on a hot day,” she said.

When meeting clients, they would generally be expected to dress more formally in tie and jacket, depending on the relationship with them, she said.

Jo Leah, head of marketing at Ipswich Building Society said that at their head office, where staff did not meet members of the public, the code was smart/casual, although at the branches, they wore uniforms. In hot weather, they were not required to wear jackets, although the offices were air conditioned.

“Shorts would not be part of our dress code at any time of year,” she added, although it was not something which had been raised by staff.