The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
You would think that if you had to wear a uniform to work your employer would provide this free of charge but sadly many don’t. This seems to me to be a rather unfair practice especially as many uniforms carry logos which provide valuable advertising for the companies concerned. Employees are also generally responsible for cleaning the clothes so why do they have to pay for them?
I can fully understand that employers would fear misuse of the garments if they were provided free of charge. It is true that some people would inevitably abuse their uniform and would be constantly asking for replacements. I am sure there is also a fear that clothes will be stolen or that workers will simply neglect to return them. Employers would probably also argue that if the staff didn’t wear uniforms they would have to wear their own clothes which would also cost them money. Whilst I know that people will always treat their clothes with more respect if they have to pay for them it still seems unfair to make them pay for something which they would not necessarily choose to wear especially if it advertises the company. In any case there is another solution which works well.
I used to work at a theme park where uniforms where obligatory and the dress code was very strict. We did not have to pay for any of the garments but there was a uniform deposit of £2 per week which was deducted from our pay packets. At the end of the season or when workers left the company they returned their uniform and their deposit payments were reimbursed in the final pay packet. If garments were damaged at work we were issued with a free replacement but we did have to clean the uniforms ourselves. This was a great system which ensured that everyone took care of their clothes and returned them to the company but were not financially penalised. Incidentally if you do have to clean your uniform you can claim tax relief on this.
A friend of mine recently started working at Ralph Lauren. I was shocked to hear that the sales assistants are required to wear the brand’s garments in the shop and that they have to pay for the privilege. Naturally they are the sort of clothes that they can wear outside of work too and the staff purchase at a discount and so there is a benefit in there somewhere but it all seems rather harsh! The situation got worse for my friend when she was transferred to a new outlet where the uniform rules were more specific. She was then required to wear riding jodhpurs and a tweed jacket which were not the sort of clothes she would wear socially. I understand that many fashion stores operate in the same way and I think this is unfair. It wouldn’t hurt them to provide a few garments for the staff and they could use the aforementioned deposit system to ensure that they get the clothes back and that they are not abused.
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her time between writing and running her shop.