Should you ban shorts at work?

Male builders made the headlines by wearing dresses to work to get around a health and safety ban on shorts. So what can you learn from this?

During the heatwave several newspapers ran features on a group of male builders who turned up for work in summer dresses. They did so to protest about what they believed to be an unfair safety rule that is forcing them to wear long trousers whilst working on site.

The builders had asked to wear shorts when the temperatures reached 26°C. However, the principal contractor, Bellway Homes stated that shorts were not allowed on its sites. Since the protests made the news Bellway have changed their stance. So, with the warm weather set to last, should you follow its lead?

You may ask is this common-place? Many large contractors prohibit them, as do some manufacturing and industrial companies. However, for some industries it is commonplace such as Royal Mail, many posties wear them throughout the year.

What is the legal position? The HSE stated that there is no legal obligation to ban shorts. They confirmed that it is down to the employer to make their own rules based on the findings of their risk assessments.

Weigh up the pros and cons. You could say that its safer to wear long trousers as protection from sharp materials, chemicals, the effects of the sun, etc. Another view is that those hazards should be managed by other means and allowing shorts you reduce the risk of staff suffering from heat-related ill-health conditions.

As proven by the builders and the public response to their antics, the popular move would be to permit the wearing of shorts. So, if you can justify that you’re not putting staff at risk, it will be worth allowing them. If you don’t, you might have to deal with complaints, especially after the recent publicity on the subject.

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