Handling Employee’s Personal Hygiene at Work and Grooming Issues in the Workplace

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Hygiene and grooming at work

Personal hygiene in the workplace can be one of the most uncomfortable conversations to be had with an employee. As an employer, an employee’s personal hygiene at work can be difficult for you to handle without causing some offence or awkwardness. However, depending on the employee’s role, poor personal hygiene at work can have a negative impact on other workers or clients, not to mention the health and safety implications if you are in the food and drink industry.

What may seem simple in theory can become very tricky in practice. You should not avoid the issue; instead, raise it with the employee confidentially and delicately to benefit all parties. If you have a large number of staff, it is worth considering training managers on difficult conversations and how to handle them.

Personal Hygiene Standards In The Workplace

Having a policy within your staff handbook on employee personal hygiene is a good start in outlining the minimum cleanliness required of employees to keep good personal hygiene in the workplace. By setting clear expectations about grooming with an employee personal hygiene policy, you will decrease the likelihood that bad hygiene will be present in the workplace. Consider including personal hygiene guidelines for employees in the dress code section of your documentation, possibly under a category marked as ‘Presentation’, specifying the company’s personal hygiene requirements.

Suppose your organisation is part of the care sector, or the issue may be personal hygiene in the hospitality industry, where employees deal with food and drink. In that case, there are additional rules you may wish to make clear. Things you may want to consider include:

  • Stress to your employees about washing their hands regularly, especially before starting their shift and after bathroom breaks, to help create and maintain a hygienic working environment.
  • Regularly clean cuts and burns must be covered with appropriate dressings to maintain good workplace hygiene.
  • Makeup and perfume should be kept to an absolute minimum to help reduce any health risks.

Personal Hygiene In The Workplace Legislation And How To Avoid Potential Discrimination Claims

What may first appear as a breach of personal hygiene rules in the workplace can actually be symptoms of a serious medical condition. You should be conscious that the staff member may suffer from poor personal health or take medication that causes profuse sweating or difficulty in their cleaning regime, meaning they struggle to manage good personal hygiene in the workplace. Consider leading the conversation by asking if there are any health concerns you need to be aware of that may be causing them to have poor personal hygiene at work. It may give you a better idea of their circumstances and help you avoid getting accused of discrimination.

Health And Safety, Employee Personal Hygiene At Work, And Dealing With The Issue Directly

Arrange a meeting either through their line manager or directly. It must be a private location without other employees present. The employee shouldn’t be given this information by a colleague or anonymously, it could create an uncomfortable atmosphere, and the employee may feel victimised by their colleague(s).

While it is important to be careful with accusations of poor personal hygiene in the workplace, the employee may not believe a problem exists and will require direct information. For example, inform the employee that they have ‘stained or damaged’ clothing when attending work and cite your employee personal hygiene policy. Alternatively, if complaints have been made about the employee, make them aware without disclosing who had raised them. It will explain how cleanliness can affect the business without allowing a hostile environment to form between colleagues.

Once the employee has had the opportunity to explain their circumstances or take what you have said on board, clearly confirm your expectations of employee personal hygiene. If it is confirmed that the employee is suffering from a medical issue, establish the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that may need to be made to best suit all staff members. If linked to a disability, the employer, with the employee’s consent, could write to their GP to seek advice and find a resolution for the employee’s poor personal hygiene at work.

If there are no discrimination issues, and after advising on personal hygiene tips in the workplace.  Ultimately, following the correct process and seeking the relevant advice, you can take appropriate measures and discipline the employee for breaching expected/good hygiene and grooming company standards.