The Big Four firm’s Australia offices previously had an obligatory “modern professional” dress code of suits for men and tailored dresses for women but now staff members can make their own judgement about what is appropriate for the workplace.
“It’s not a 'dress up' or 'dress down' policy — all we are asking our people to do is think about what they are doing each day, who they are doing it with, and dress in a way that reflects that,” said Sue Horlin, PwC Australia's incoming human capital leader.
Staff will be asked to “dress in a way that makes them feel great, is respectful to our clients and colleagues, and safe and appropriate for the environment they are in,” Horlin said.
“We trust our people to use their judgement and common sense, and we firmly believe this small but symbolic gesture will help people be more comfortable, more confident and therefore deliver fantastic service to our clients.”
“In an environment where we are asking our people to be more innovative and creative, it just didn't feel right to keep mandating what our people wear.”
Horlin added that "the response from our people has been fantastic".
A spokesperson for PwC UK said, "Our UK firm has had a flexible approach in place for a number of years where we leave it to the judgement of our people to decide what it is appropriate to wear for work."
PwC Australia’s decision to ditch the dress code follows controversy in the UK after a temporary receptionist at PwC was sent home, without pay, for refusing to wear high heels.
Nicola Thorp, who was employed as a temp by PwC’s outsourced reception firm Portico, says she was sent home after she refused to source a pair of two to four inch heels after she arrived at work wearing flat shoes.
PwC quickly distanced itself from the allegations, and reiterated that the both the receptionist and supervisor in question were employees of Portico, rather than PwC, which does not have specific dress guidelines for employees based on gender.
Thorp launched an online petition calling for a change in dress code laws that would ensure women are able to wear formal flat shoes if they wish. Portico later announced it was revising its guidelines to make it clear that female employees could wear plain flat shoes "as they prefer".
Gaenor Bagley, UK head of people at PwC, said, "We’ve had a flexible approach to how our people dress for work in the UK for a number of years – it’s important that our people can be themselves at work and that we respect our clients and colleagues. We trust our people to use their judgement on what’s appropriate to wear."
Horlin said the removal of the dress code in PwC’s Australia offices was not a direct result of Thorp’s petition, saying “the two are not linked but I don’t mind the timing.”
She added, “The reality is we are in a war for talent and we want the same creative, innovative and diverse people that all the other companies are chasing.
“We think this change will help us do that.”