Keep your dress codes uniform

08 August, 2008

Q Can I force my staff to wear


A As an employer you are allowed to stipulate what constitutes appropriate, and inappropriate, dress and if you decide that means a staff uniform, it's probably not going to cause you legal worries.

Many wine merchants and off-licences like to issue staff with branded polo shirts and fleeces, and these can be relatively inexpensive to


The uniform need not be too formal, though some upmarket merchants favour crisply-ironed aprons and a collar and tie.

Staff uniforms, however casual, can be a massive bone of contention with employees and if you're introducing one for the first time, it's important to get the team onside. Explain why you think uniforms are a good idea: that they project a professional image and add to the reputation of the shop as a specialist retailer.

Wherever possible, allow staff to have a say in what kind of uniform they'll be wearing. Get hold of some catalogues from suppliers such as Simon Jersey, Indigo or Redmark and draw up a short list of favoured designs. Bear in mind that men and women may want to dress differently, and that some staff may have

religious or cultural reasons for not wanting to wear a particular garment. Again, the secret is to consult.

If an employee refuses to comply with your dress code - whether or not it involves uniforms - you can discipline and ultimately fire them if they persistently defy you. To avoid confusion, you should clarify your policy in the contracts of all new starters.

Q A customer ordered a mixed case and I substituted Chablis for a Sancerre of similar value because our stock had unexpectedly run out. The customer complained, but I pointed to the small print on our website which says we may occasionally

do this. Is the customer obliged to pay for the wine?

A No, and not only that - you are also required to pay for the cost of returning unwanted goods.

You are quite right to issue small print in your literature or on your website explaining your policy on substitute goods: in the drinks trade, interesting parcels of wine can quickly become over-subscribed and vintages change . So it's very difficult to be 100% sure that ordered wines will always be available in stock and it's only fair that you should offer alternatives of equal or greater value.

Some merchants have a policy of issuing credit notes when a substitute wine is rejected by the customer. But legally, they are entitled to get their money back.

Q Can you become over the legal alcohol limit for driving simply by tasting and spitting wine?

A The short answer is

yes. There is a theory that tasting 30 wines is the equivalent of drinking one full glass, though some people think the effect would be achieved with 15.

Around 3% of the ethanol in wine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth and tongue, according to experts, but professional

tasters are at risk of taking on much more than that because they swirl the wine around their palates while they are making their deliberations.

Most people who attend tastings will know from their own experience that some of the alcohol they hold in their mouths enters their bloodstream, yet too often they

ignore the signals . After tasting 40 or more wines, it would certainly be reckless to drive home.

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