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I work for a company in the United Kingdom, and they can't provide me with a brand new uniform, as they ran out of stock. They gave me a used (washed) uniform to wear for the time being. Someone else wore it before me.

To me, it seems absolutely unsanitary. It's a top that is quite tight and touches my skin.

  • Can they force me to wear it?
  • Is there some law or regulation that says that uniform given to a staff member must be new?
  • Most importantly, how can I address this with my management if I'm uncomfortable wearing used clothing?
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    Could you elaborate on why you consider washed clothing to be unsanitary? – yochannah Apr 12 '14 at 16:29
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    You might also address "thrift shops" in your question. People buy used clothing all the time at yard sales too. – jmort253 Apr 12 '14 at 16:34
  • Hey Susan, I made some edits here to expand the question beyond just the law and focus on how to address with management. I also bulleted out the questions. For those answering the question, please focus on the three bulleted questions as per How to Answer and the guidelines in help center. Good luck! – jmort253 Apr 12 '14 at 21:24
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    I assume enquiring about the existence of a law falls under legal advice, which is off topic (although I doubt such a law exists - it would need to prove that washing doesn't sufficiently clean clothes to the extent that there's a health risk, which seems greatly counter-intuitive, or perhaps psychology can come into play). – Dukeling Apr 12 '14 at 21:49
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    Duplicate of "company asking us to share clothes" or vice versa... And I think both duplicate a similar older question. – keshlam May 13 '16 at 15:31
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You can tell management that you're uncomfortable wearing used clothing. Don't expect them to work with you on this; no offense but most places in my experience which come with a required uniform do so because they can't be certain that a transient workforce will come in with work-appropriate wear and as such will very likely simply let you go and talk to the next person on their list of applicants, someone who likely does not have such a visceral reaction towards wearing "someone else's clothes".*

Or you could, you know, just deal with it. A big fat lot of us have had jobs in the past (often but not always early in our careers) where we had to make do with a uniform policy and all the attendant issues - not having access to new clothing, not being given enough changes of outfits to allow you to work 5 nights a week without either doing laundry several times a week or showing up with a stinky shirt, etc. I'm not saying this is good times to be had by all, but guess what? This is how the "other half" lives, so to speak. Given the tone of the original post, I think that you may benefit from this experience in ways you don't know right now.

This is not the place to ask legal advice but there are no statutes on the books that I have ever heard of. that state that a company must supply an employee with a brand new uniform. In fact, the reason I am almost positive that this is the case at least in the US is that what you're proposing would be a ridiculous law. There is a law that states that if a company demands a specific uniform for an employee, it has to provide it itself, but, yeah, not the same thing.

*Which, two things: one, as has been noted in the comments, a lot of people go to thrift shops to find used clothing. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, particularly if you don't have a lot of money. Frankly, there's an elitist streak to this question which is, I think, a big part of why it's been downvoted already. Second, even leaving the elistism aside for a second, you do realize that if you purchase all your clothes from a clothing store, the chances are high that someone has worn some article of clothing you currently own before you did, right?

  • There is a reason a some people refuse to buy clothing 'off the rack'. – Weckar E. Nov 17 '16 at 10:35
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Firstly, yes, they supply the uniform and it can be second hand. As long as the uniform isn't dirty or broken, you have no option but to wear it.

That said, depending on your contract, you may be able to wash it yourself if you are particularly worried that it isn't clean enough for your personal preferences.

The next issue is one of size. You should absolutely (and politely) ask your manager when you can get a uniform that fits. It doesn't need to be a confrontation - just "Hi, I just thought you should know that my uniform doesn't fit properly. Can you tell me how I get a size 14?"

The only UK laws I know of regarding employer provided clothing is with regard to safety clothing. For example protective boots, gloves, lab coats, etc. It is unlikely that your uniform falls into this category.

If your manager is unable or unwilling to provide you with a suitably sized uniform, I would strongly suggest that you join a trade union and ask them for help.

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    +1 For addressing the issue of size. Pre-worn uniforms is a gray area, but an ill-fitting (especially small) uniform could lead to other serious issues. – user9158 Apr 16 '14 at 5:22
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I can't even see why this would be an issue.

Consider another case where you routinely put used but washed cloth against your skin: Sheets and towels in a hotel room.

The towels at least will likely touch far more intimate areas than your uniform ever will.

  • This is exactly why some people bring their own towels/covers. – Weckar E. Nov 17 '16 at 10:34
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Can they force me to wear it?

Yes.

Is there some law or regulation that says that uniform given to a staff member must be new?

I highly doubt it. I'd bet decent money.

Most importantly, how can I address this with my management if I'm uncomfortable wearing used clothing?

When you leave for a better job, tell them you were really grossed out by having to wear somebody else's used uniform. Because you're not wrong. It's kind of 'ew.' I'd wear another man's boxers if I knew they were cleaned by somebody more responsible than me. But cleaned by a corporation too cheap to give you a brand new one? Not so much.

But I've been in positions where I would have. If it puts food on the table you'll be planning your next steps at, maybe all you need is to clean it yourself to be comfortable with it.

protected by enderland Jan 16 '17 at 18:06

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