Employee Hygiene Issues Approach?

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Question

We have a newer employee who doesn’t appear to be bathing. It is a touchy situation, but the manager came to me and asked what he should do. He directly supervises the employee and is open to talking to him, but wanted guidance on the best way to approach the situation. 

Answer

It is acceptable for an employer to have a policy about cleanliness and personal hygiene in the workplace, and to have conversations with or potentially discipline employees that are not adhering to this policy. If an employee’s hygiene is disrupting the workplace or making it difficult for other employees to complete their work, an employer may discuss the issue with the employee.

It will likely be helpful to have the conversation with the employee in a private area, where other employees are not able to overhear. This will allow for privacy for the employee, who may or may not be aware that his or her hygiene is noticeable to other employees. A best practice for this type of situation would generally be to focus on the behavior or issue itself, and not to speculate as to what the reason might be.

It may also be helpful to be direct and clear about the issue and what the expectation is going forward. It may be necessary to specify what aspect of the employee’s presentation or personal hygiene has declined below satisfactory standards (such as bad breath or body odor). Again, an employer’s responsibility is the workplace, so it may be helpful to explain to the employee how the situation is affecting the workplace or the business.

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Published Date:May 17, 2022

Categories: HR Question of the Month