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Employer Advice for Dress Codes and Spirit Wear in Ontario Workplaces


Employers in Ontario have the right to establish workplace dress codes and standards for appearance they believe are needed for the safety and function of their business. They may do this as long as the standards do not discriminate against employees in the ways specified by the Ontario Human Rights Code. Employers may also grant certain freedoms from dress codes on a regular basis or for special occasions, such as during a significant sports event. Here’s what business owners should know about allowing spirit wear in the workplace.

Human Rights and Health and Safety

Workplace dress codes should comply with health and safety legislation and the rights set out by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. For example, work place dress codes and uniforms should not conflict with an employee’s religious beliefs or gender expression. Likewise, spirit wear such as team hats, scarves or jerseys should not conflict with safety wear or be worn if they may pose a hazard to the employee in the workplace. Employers should make accommodations if employees require it, up to the point of undue hardship.

Employer Duties and Dress Codes

Beyond this, it is up to you as the employer to decide what is appropriate for your workplace. Allowing spirit wear is a benefit employers may give, but they are not required to do so by Ontario labour laws. Whatever you decide, your stance should be clearly outlined in a dress code policy that is easily accessible to employees for reference. Leaving it up to your employees’ judgement and common sense can lead to confusion and rule breaking in this area and potentially others.

Flexibility and Compromise

Allowing spirit wear in the workplace may enhance its social atmosphere and foster a sense of community. Employees tend to appreciate flexibility and the opportunity to wear what they want to work. A reasonable compromise might be to allow casual dress each Friday, including spirit wear, or allowing it on special occasions if you prefer to keep the dress code formal or business casual on regular workdays.

Get Expert Advice on Managing Dress Codes

With each cultural shift workplace attire is progressively becoming less formal. Now is a good time to update your dress code policies to meet the requirements of Ontario legislation and the changing expectations of the workforce. Speak with one of our experts to get advice on spirit wear in the workplace and to get help with establishing compliant dress code policies: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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