Uniforms & clothing

Can I require an employee to buy clothing from my own store to wear to work?

No, you can’t require an employee to buy specific clothing from your store to wear to work unless you reimburse them.

Under the Retail Award, if you require your employees to wear any ‘protective’ or ‘special’ clothing as a condition of their job you must either:

  • provide or pay for the clothes, or
  • reimburse your employees for the cost of buying the clothes.

In addition to this, the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) prevents an employer from requiring an employee to spend any part of their wages if the requirement is unreasonable in the circumstances. What is or is not reasonable will need to be considered on a case by case basis.

What is ‘protective’ or ‘special’ clothing?

Under the Retail Award, ‘protective’ or ‘special’ clothing such as a uniform, dress or other clothing that you require your employees to wear can include:

  • uniforms, such as a T-shirt with the company’s logo on it
  • items for workplace health and safety reasons, such as a protective apron
  • specific designs or clothing from floor stock.

You can ask your employees to wear clothing that they would reasonably be expected to own already, such as neat casual clothing or black or white clothing.

Example

Stephanie works in a shoe shop. Her employer requires her to wear neat casual clothing to work. Under the Retail Award, Stephanie isn’t entitled to reimbursement for buying the casual clothes because it is not considered to be ‘protective’ or ‘special’ clothing.

Can I require my employees to wear ‘current’ or ‘in season’ stock?

Yes, however if you require your retail employees to buy and wear ‘current’ or ‘in season’ stock from your business to work in, you must:

  • supply and/or pay for the clothes, or
  • reimburse the employee for purchasing the clothing they wear to work (whether the clothing is purchased by the employee at the full or discounted price), and
  • reimburse the employee for the cost of replacing the items when replacement is due to normal wear and tear.

Example

Blake works in a boutique clothing shop. He is required to buy current stock to wear to work, to promote the stock and encourage people to buy certain items. Blake gets a 50% discount when he buys clothes.

Even though he gets a 50% discount, Blake’s employer has to reimburse him the cost of buying the clothes, because under the FW Act his employer can’t require him to unreasonably spend any of the wages that he earns.

Do I have to pay my employee a laundry allowance?

If you require your employees to clean any special uniform, dress or other clothing, then your employees are entitled to be paid a separate laundry allowance under the Retail Award. See Allowances for more information.

What if my employees are covered by an agreement?

If your workplace is covered by an agreement you need to read the terms of the agreement. Any term of the agreement that requires an employee to spend any part of their pay in relation to the performance of work would be subject to the FW Act. If the requirement is unreasonable in the circumstances then the term of the agreement will not apply.

It’s important that you make sure that any store policy, employee manual or contract of employment is consistent with your obligations and your employee’s entitlements under the Retail Award and the FW Act.

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Page last updated: 21 Jan 2014