The issue surrounding aesthetic labour has been brought to the attention in the headlines following a recent case where a female employee stated she was sent home for not wearing heels to work. Aesthetic Labour in layman’s terms is employing someone due to their appearance and accent and / or asking employees to dress in a ‘pleasing’ manner in order to help boost sales/ promote the company’s image. This tends to lean more towards female employees as they are conceived to have an ‘advantage’ to dress in a certain way, for example length of dress / skirt and height of heals, in order to successfully achieve a certain goal or objective.
Is there still a place for it?
The overall perception of aesthetic labour is that it is no-longer-applicable and is seen as a dated tradition in order to achieve objectives. In the current office environment, a more ‘dress down’ approach is applied across the board. Comfort is a priority to employees and if the type of business does not come face to face with the public or clients on a regular basis, then casual attire is and should be an acceptable form of workplace wear. When it comes down to employing someone based purely on their looks and how they sound has raised the idea of blind interviews so that the person is question is not judged based on sex, appearance or background.
Is there a specific image the workforce should adhere to?
As long as the workforce is comfortable and wearing appropriate clothing in order to conduct their work, then it should be up to the employees own discretion to choose what they wear along with suggestions from the employer.
Is there a typical demographic that aesthetic labour falls into?
Due to the current state of the media and what is perceived as ‘attractive’ with the influence of icons such as the Kardashians and the power of social media, then it tends to lean more towards the younger generation due to them being considered more ‘receptive’ when it comes to suggested ways of looking.
Our question to you is, do you think aesthetic labour still has a place today? We agree that if an employee is in contact with the public then yes, a certain level of ‘cleanliness’ and ‘presentation’ is required. The example that comes to mind is promotional staff at events. Are you risking offending people by wearing certain attire and revealing skin in order to sell a product or service? Or does this come hand in hand with the industry that you work in? Is this a choice made by a person when they apply to the job?
If you are an employer looking to implement a dress code in your business, then we suggest you consider the following points:
- Are your reasons legitimate for asking your employees to dress a certain way?
- Consult with employees throughout all stages of implementing the dress code to discover if they are comfortable and can see your reasons behind this
- Consider how the dress code will impact your employees’ ability to do their jobs effectively
- Make sure your dress policy allows for employees to appeal to a decision not to wear certain attire
- Ensure you apply your dress code consistently to avoid discrimination across all levels of the business, to both men and women.