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Work clothes: what can the boss prescribe?

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May the boss demand Workwear to wear? If you work in a job like police officer, firefighter, doctor, soldier, pilot, steward or cook, the answer is simple: yes. In most of these jobs, employees are obliged to wear work clothing because there is a law, a collective agreement, an operating instruction or a corresponding passage in the employment contract. What does this mean for employees and who bears the costs for the work clothing? The answers…

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Work clothes: what does it mean?

When one speaks of work clothes, different things can be meant in everyday language. Work clothes are general any clothing worn while working will be carried. Many employees, especially those who work from home, can wear whatever they like as work clothes. So there is no difference between work and casual wear.

But that doesn't always have to be the case. There are also certain professions in which certain clothing required is.
These can be of the following types:

  • Workwear
  • Uniform
  • Protective work clothing

The terms Work and service clothing mean the same thing: the employer tells his employee what kind of clothing to wear during working hours. Under certain circumstances, the employer would like to use this to convey a uniform appearance for its employees to the outside world.

For wearing protective work clothing, on the other hand, there is quite clear instructions in the Occupational Safety and Health Act and in the Ordinance on Safety and Health Protection for the Use of Personal Protective Equipment at Work (PPE Usage Ordinance).

This type of clothing is intended to appeal to the worker protect from danger and its physical integrity to guarantee. If an employee works in an occupation that requires personal protective equipment, he is obliged to wear it. If he does not do this, he can be fined. Other consequences such as a warning or even termination can threaten.

Conversely, the employer must ensure that the employee can wear protective clothing and must do so on request prove to the competent authority.

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Employer can determine appearance

Employees who are wondering what the boss may prescribe with regard to work clothing can be said: First of all, every employee has this Right to dress according to one's personal taste, to make up and otherwise to decorate.

The employer in turn has the so-called Right of direction. This allows him to determine the employee's performance with regard to the content, place and time of the work.

However, this also includes the right to use the Appearance of the employee - especially in customer contact - to be allowed to determine. Work clothing in this sense is also referred to as work clothing. As a rule, this form of clothing, which is mostly used to ensure a uniform appearance for employees, is regulated in collective or employment contracts or in a works agreement. If the work clothing is regulated in a works agreement, the works council has a right of co-determination in accordance with Section 87 (1) Works Constitution Act (BetrVG).

It is now known from research that uniform work and professional clothing can profoundly shape and change the behavior of employees - for example, by visibly anchoring the specific corporate culture, values ​​and behavioral norms once again. These are visual codes that are intended to visualize and stabilize the otherwise elusive aspects of a corporate culture.

Put simply, the employee's right to his or her own style always ends where the employer puts it reasonable interest has to influence this.

  • Are badly seated (and visible) underwear Colleagues, the work results or possibly outsiders harassed, the employer may decide to wear different underwear. But not the color.
  • For reasons of occupational health and safety, car mechanics are not allowed in the workplace Chains or rings or piercings wear. Too dangerous - they could get stuck somewhere.
  • Some time ago, on the other hand, a Lufthansa pilot literally got one on the hat because he refused to keep one in the publicly accessible area of ​​the airport Visor cap to the uniform to wear. His colleagues didn't have to, so he felt discriminated against. The Cologne Regional Labor Court saw the matter differently: The judges denied discrimination and dismissed his complaint: You could not see the cap in isolation, but as part of the overall work clothing, which is different for men and women. Women would have the choice of wearing a skirt or trousers, while men would have to wear trousers. That would not be a disadvantage for men, otherwise any different uniforms for men and women would be inadmissible. After all: in the cockpit, he can take off his hat.

Conversely, for employees this means: As long as the work clothes are their own Performance and the work environment not influenced or only insignificantly influenced, the employer cannot do the laundry for the employee.

This is of course different in professions that involve the Safety at work for employees. In these professions, certain clothing is required.

Typical professions in which protective clothing is worn

There is a whole range of occupations in which injuries can typically be expected or in which certain hygiene regulations must be observed. Workers in these professions must wear protective clothing. This includes:

  • Professions in construction

    Workers working on a construction site are exposed to many hazards. For this reason, they are obliged to wear certain protective work clothing. This includes, for example:

    • Respiratory protection
    • Gloves
    • Hard hat
    • Safety shoes
  • Jobs in the fire brigade / civil protection

    Employees who work in the fire service and, above all, in civil protection, live dangerously. Protective work clothing is therefore mandatory in these professions.

    This includes, for example:

    • Respiratory protection
    • Fire protection suit
    • rubber boots
    • Contamination protective clothing
    • Protective gloves
    • Safety shoes
    • Safety helmet with neck protection
  • Health care professions

    Anyone who works in a medical profession and has to deal with sick patients must not only protect the patient but also himself during the work. This includes wearing clothes that are particularly easy to keep germ-free. In addition, gloves and breathing masks are required in certain areas.

    Typical items of clothing worn in the healthcare sector include:

    • Eye shield
    • Service shoes
    • Gloves
    • Tunic
    • Hood
    • Mouth and nose protection
  • Professions in the craft

    In certain manual trades, the so-called overalls are not only worn as a means of corporate identity. It is flame retardant and therefore protects fitters, car mechanics and other craftsmen from injuries.

    Typical protective clothing that is worn is, for example:

    • Respiratory protection
    • rubber boots
    • ear protection
    • Gloves
    • protective suit
    • safety goggles
    • Safety shoes

Workwear FAQs: Frequently asked questions on the topic

There are some questions that come up again and again when employees think about workwear. These include the following:

  • When do I have to wear work clothes?

    working clothes you have to wear it if your employer tells you to. In accordance with his right of instruction and direction, he can oblige employees to do so.

    Protective work clothing must always be worn when the risk potential at the workplace prescribes it.

  • Does the employer pay for the work clothes?

    Whether the employer has to contribute to the cost of the work clothes depends on which one Kind of work clothes We speak.

    If the workwear has the function of Protective work clothing fulfilled, which is prescribed by the legislator for the respective activity, it must be provided by the employer. The employee may not be involved in the costs.

    It is something else when the employee at his own request wants to wear special protective clothing in the workplace. Then he is responsible for the purchase himself.

  • Does the employer have to wash the work clothes?

    Anyone who carries out a particularly dangerous job and can easily injure themselves in the process - a welder, for example - must regularly do a so-called Protective clothing wear.

    Must, however, certain Hygiene regulations are observed - for example in the field of food processing or in hospitals - employers must inform their employees Hygienic clothing make available (cf. § 5 of the Food Hygiene Ordinance in conjunction with the associated Appendix 2).

    In both cases, of course, the employer has a vested interest in the legal requirements to be observed when wearing work clothes. Otherwise he could run into problems - for example if an employee injured himself because he was not wearing protective clothing, or if food was complained about because hair or dandruff was found in it.

    It is therefore not only important to wear work clothes, but also to wear them regular cleaning. This is usually also done in the interests of the employer. "It is therefore only appropriate that he must also bear the costs for this," says Sandra Voigt, lawyer and editor at anwalt.de, for example.

  • Can I deduct costs from tax?

    When workers take the clothes exclusively professional you can deduct them from tax as so-called income-related expenses. Work clothes in this sense include, for example, a doctor's coat or a judge's robe.

    In the case of clothing that is used exclusively for work, employees can also use the Cleaning costs deduct from tax. However, there is no legal provision on this. This means that in the end the tax office decides whether or not to recognize the cleaning costs.

    Caution: If your employer pays the costs for work clothing that is not typical for your job (and that you could therefore wear in your free time), it could be one monetary benefit act on which you have to pay additional tax. If you have any questions, speak to your employer.

Tax deductible cleaning costs

You may be able to deduct the cleaning costs for your work clothes from the tax. The more detailed you are the cost in your tax return, the better your chances that the tax office will recognize it.

There are two possibilities:

  1. You bring the work clothes to a dry cleaner: This case is relatively simple. If you take your clothes to a public dry cleaner, be sure to keep all receipts carefully. You should submit these as income-related expenses with your next tax return. Incidentally, this includes not only the costs for the actual cleaning of the garment, but with a little luck also the costs for ironing and drying. Make sure that the items are shown individually.
  2. You wash your work clothes at home: This case is a bit more complicated. You won't get an invoice if you wash the clothes yourself. The good news: In this case, you can estimate the costs.

    You need some information for this:

    • How much does the laundry weigh?
    • How are work clothes washed?
    • How do you dry the laundry?
    • Do you iron your work clothes?
    • How many people live in total in your household?

    When you have compiled all the information, you can see in the table of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) how many costs you can apply for cleaning.

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January 17, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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