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Handling personal hygiene and grooming at work

Personal hygiene can be one of the most awkward topics to discuss at work. It’s difficult to address the situation as an employer without generating offense or awkwardness. Bad hygiene, on the other hand, might have a negative impact on other employees or clients, not to mention the health and safety consequences if you work in the food and beverage business.

In practice, what appears simple in principle might be really difficult. However, rather than avoiding the problem, you should bring it up with the employee in a private and careful manner that benefits both sides. If you have a large staff, you should consider providing managers with training on how to handle unpleasant conversations.

Taking steps to avoid the problem

A guideline in your employee handbook is an excellent place to start when it comes to defining the bare minimum of cleanliness. Setting explicit grooming expectations in the office will reduce the likelihood of poor hygiene in the workplace.

Consider including this in your documentation’s dress code section, potentially under a category like “Presentation,” stating the company’s personal hygiene expectations.

If your company is in the food and beverage or health-care industries, there are some additional rules to be aware of.

Consider the following considerations:

  • Encourage your personnel to wash their hands frequently, particularly before starting their shift and after using the restroom.

  • Cuts and burns must be covered with suitable bandages at all times.

  • Makeup and perfume should be avoided at all costs.

Be careful of charges of prejudice

What appears to be poor hygiene could actually be symptoms of a dangerous medical condition. You should be aware that the member of staff may be unwell or on medication that produces excessive sweating or makes their washing routine difficult.

Starting the conversation by asking if they have any health concerns you should be aware of will give you a better understanding of their situation and prevent you from being accused of discrimination.

Taking a direct approach to the problem

Arrange a meeting with them personally or through their line manager. There must be no other staff present in this place. This information should not be given to the employee by a coworker or anonymously because it may create an uncomfortable atmosphere and make the employee feel victimized by their colleague (s).

While it’s vital to tread carefully when making claims of inadequate cleanliness, the employee may not believe there’s an issue and may want specific details. Informing an employee that their clothes are “stained or damaged” when they arrive at work, for example, and referencing your hygiene or grooming policy.

Alternatively, if the employee has been the subject of complaints, inform them without revealing who lodged them. This will allow for a better understanding of how cleanliness affects the business without creating a hostile climate among coworkers.

Once the employee has had a chance to clarify their situation or accept what you’ve said, be sure to state your expectations clearly. Establish the “reasonable changes” that may need to be made to best serve all members of staff if it is understood that the employee is suffering from a medical concern. If it is linked to a handicap, the employer, with the employee’s permission, could write to seek advice from their GP about it in the future.

As long as there are no discrimination issues, you can reprimand an employee for persistently violating expected or satisfactory hygiene and grooming standards by following the proper procedure and receiving relevant counsel.