April 4, 2023
If you require your employees to wear special clothing while on duty, you must provide the special clothing, and you are also obligated to maintain the clothing in a good state of repair and to clean it — all at no cost to the employee.
Note, however, that where an employer requires employees to dress a certain way — using their own clothing, in order to present a “standard look” — this will be considered a dress code rather than a uniform. For example, a restaurateur might require all servers to wear white shirts and black pants. In this instance, the employer is not responsible for the provision, cleaning or maintenance of such clothing.
An employer who provides the necessary facilities for employees to clean and maintain their work clothing at the workplace is not required to cover cleaning expenses for those employees who choose to take their uniforms home or to a dry cleaner for cleaning. However, employers and employees may enter into an agreement whereby the employees will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining their work clothing.
Such agreements must be supported by a majority of the affected employees at the workplace. An agreement must also provide that the employer will reimburse each employee bound by the agreement for the cost of cleaning and maintaining the special clothing. The money paid or received under an agreement of this nature is considered wages and, therefore, records of the agreement and the reimbursements must be kept by the employer for four years.
In a unionized environment, a collective agreement may govern the terms of uniforms and special clothing. While not all aspects of the agreement need to meet employment standards minimums, the whole of the arrangement must meet or exceed what is provided to employees under the Employment Standards Act.
For more information concerning employee uniforms and special clothing, see Employment Standards Act – Special Clothing and Interpretation Manual – Section 25 – Special Clothing.
Information provided by Ryan Anderson, an employment lawyer with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.