At certain times of the year, such as Halloween, Children in Need or Christmas, employees may ask if they can come to work in fancy dress, sometimes this is to get into the spirit of things, raise money for charity or both.  If you agree in principal to their request, what rules should there be?

The first thing to consider is that you are under no obligation to agree a fancy dress day even if it is in a good cause. As the employer, you have the right to make the rules regarding dress and appearance in the workplace. It is recommended that you set out your dress code in your handbook (or HR website).  Although you are not obliged to give a reason for refusal, it is sometimes appreciated, for example, if you believe that a fancy dress day would be inappropriate or appear as unprofessional, you are well within your rights to say ‘no'.

If you do agree to a fancy dress day, it is a good idea to set some ground rules.  It is important to remember that not everyone would embrace the idea of coming to work in fancy dress, so for this reason, you should make the wearing of fancy dress optional.  In addition, you should make it clear that employees must not make negative comments about the people that do not participate.

You should also adhere to your health and safety obligations.  If an employee wears a long flowing costume, silly shoes or a mask that could restrict their vision, there could be a risk of danger or injury.  You should therefore ask employees to be sensible and bear health and safety in mind when choosing what to wear. You should also reserve the right to ask an employee to change or remove an item if the costume they are wearing is not appropriate, dangerous or is a risk (to themselves, others or dangerous).

You should also consider clients.  If there are any planned meetings with clients, you should ask the attendees of the Company to bring their normal work clothes with them.  It is also a good idea when agreeing a fancy dress day that you clearly set your expectations that the event will not impact performance or the customer experience.  

Angie.  You can contact Angie Dansey at

If you feel that you need guidance or advice, please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email Angie on the above.

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