Momma Bear’s Guide: Dress Code For Caregivers
We have been using support workers for my oldest son since 2014. While we have been pretty lucky with our caregivers, having a dress code is something that we implemented several years ago.
My son, who experiences disabilities, is a teenager. When I hire a female caregiver to support him, it is not acceptable for her to come to work in see-through t-shirts and short shorts. It is also not acceptable for her to come to work in skirts or dresses, with or without high heels. C-Bear is full assist on transferring and she needs freedom of movement with her feet firmly planted on the ground. This is just one reason why we needed to have a dress code for caregivers in place.
Professional in nature, but comfortable for the position
We worked with a family several years ago where Mom and Dad were community leaders as well as leaders in their church. The support worker they hired for their daughter was a very large woman who always came to work in spaghetti strap tank tops and see-through yoga pants. The way she dressed made everyone in the home very uncomfortable. Mom wouldn’t even let the support worker take their daughter to the local park because she was embarrassed and didn’t want people to know that she worked for their family.
We asked if they had a written dress code for the caregiver in place. They said no. Did they have a verbal dress code in place or talked to this woman about not dressing professionally for the job? No again. We explained that our recommendation was to put a dress code in place but to be prepared in case their worker balked at the new expectation and quit.
Long story short, the support worker was not happy with having to follow a dress code but did comply and stayed with the family for another year.
When we hire caregivers to come into our home, they need to respect our cultural and moral values, whether they agree with them or not. One of the ways they can do that, is dressing in a way that is professional for the position and yet comfortable in nature that allows them the freedom of movement that they may need in their job.
What type of tops do you want or not want a support worker to wear? Think about tank tops. They range from belly button length to down to mid-thigh, from spaghetti strap style to straps that are 3 inches wide. They can be worn as is, or can be worn under a sweater or another shirt. This seems nit-picky but what do you want your family to be exposed, or not exposed to?
What if they come to work in a ripped t-shirt that has profanity or something drug-related on it? Would you need them to change their shirt, or would it be okay? For some families, this is okay, and that is fine. But for some families, especially if they have young children, this would be a definite no-no.
What if a person was wearing a dark bra under a thin white shirt?. Is this something that would bother or offend your family? Do they need to keep their undergarments covered up and concealed at all times?
What about shirts that are tight or of sheer fabrics?
Pants, skinny jeans, yoga pants, leggings, and jeggings. Where do you stand on these? Pants that have mesh or lace sides or are ripped and torn, seem to be in fashion right now. Do you want them to be exposing skin like that at work? Some types of skinny pants can limit the freedom of movement that they may need at work. If that is important, be sure to discuss it.
Shorts and capris
The same general things about pants can apply to shorts and capri pants. If it is permissible for caregivers to wear them, think about the length of shorts you would want them to wear (remember, Daisy Dukes are a thing!).
What kind of shoes can caregivers wear to work? I already mentioned that I don’t want our support workers to wear anything with a high heel. It’s just not safe for them, or my son. I know some families that have a kid that is a runner so they don’t want their support workers to be wearing high heels, boots, or flip flops, just athletic shoes.
Do you want them to take off their shoes when they enter your home? Should they bring a pair of slippers to keep at your house?
What kind, if any, can a caregiver wear to work? Sometimes, the person they are supporting likes to grab jewelry and play with it. In that situation, jewelry might not be a good idea. Or maybe modest jewelry is permitted but not big, dangling, clunky earrings and necklaces.
What about piercings and large gauge earrings? Would you be comfortable around those or do they need to be covered up for the duration of their shift?
It seems that almost everyone has at least one tattoo nowadays. But just because almost everyone has tattoos doesn’t mean that they should be seen at work or that they are all PG-13. Support workers can wear sleeves and/or makeup to cover them up if needed.
It’s amazing how many adults don’t dress for the weather, especially if one of their tasks is to take the person they are supporting on walks or to the park. Let them know that you expect them to dress appropriately for all outdoor occasions and that you will not be letting them take time off of work to go home and pick up more appropriate clothing. However, if you are planning an outdoor activity where they might need to dress a certain way, it’s always a good idea to let them know ahead of time.
If your support worker will be taking your loved one with a disability to the pool for fun and exercise, let them know what they can and cannot wear. Should it be a one-piece suit for a female and board short style swim shorts for a man?
Do you want your support worker to wear scrubs? You can ask this of them but then again, since our disabled loved ones see doctors so often, maybe scrubs may not be something you want around!
Perfumes and pet allergies
Do you have anyone in the family that has sensitivities or allergies to anything? More and more people seem to nowadays so be sure to let your support workers now. This can not only be to perfumes or strongly scented lotions but also pets the caregiver may have in their home.
If you hire someone who is a smoker, whether or not they smoke while at work, the chances are their clothes and hair are going to smell like smoke. Do they need to come to work in freshly laundered clothes and clean smelling hair?
Now that marijuana is legal in several states, I have heard from several families, that people can be allergic to that smell. If that is true for your family, be sure to ask about smoking during the interview process but also let your worker know that they can not come to work smelling like it at all
If someone has long hair, do want them to keep it pulled back or up in a bun? If they are going to be working in closely with your loved one, having their hair hanging down can:
- Can be a nuisance
- Is a good way to get their hair yanked
While it is best to have a dress code in place before you need it, that may not always happen. If the way a support worker dresses, does not meet your family’s definition of appropriate, talk to them. Put your expectations down on paper and adjust them as needed. If they want to stay with the job, they will comply, if they don’t, you can hire someone who will.
If you use support workers, what is the strangest way you have ever had a support worker come to work?
Also, check out the other articles in this series:
36 Questions to Ask before Using Caregivers
Momma Bear’s Guide: When Planning To Use Caregivers
Momma Bear’s Guide: Help Wanted Ads For Caregivers
Momma Bear’s Guide: Interviewing Caregivers
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