Can You Afford The Four-Fold Cost Of Uniforms?

To uniform or not to uniform? It’s a question every manager faces at some point. Sadly for you, there’s no easy answer to that question. There are persuasive arguments on either side of these battle lines, and whether this is right for you or not depends on your business. Arguments for taking this step are varied. For one, this is a fantastic way to promote equality in the workplace. It also ensures your employees stay neat and professional. You could even go as far as to say that a uniform can transform your team into an extension of your marketing. At least, it can if you include your logo.


There are as many arguments why instilling a uniform policy is a bad idea. Many employees resent the idea of having to dress up. It’s also worth noting that uniforms can set you back a fair amount. In fact, the cost of uniforms has many more layers than the majority of us realize.


Does that mean this isn’t the right option for you? Possibly not. But, before you jump into the world of uniforms, consider the extent of those costs. That way, you can prepare on all sides to ensure you don’t regret your decision. To help you decide, we’ve broken down both the expected and unexpected expenses.

The uniforms themselves



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It should go without saying that your first expense will be the uniforms themselves. If your staff have no choice but to wear set clothes, you need to provide them. It’s as simple as that. You may well be thinking this is obvious, but few employers consider the extent of this expense. If you have a large team, you’ll need to furnish them with everything from tops to shoes. Bear in mind, too, that one set isn’t going to cut it. You should provide them with at least two of each item so they can rotate their outfits to keep them clean.


Bear in mind, too, that your expenses include seasonal additions. Most employers who provide uniforms like to alter these for seasonal occasions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you do need to add that expense into your calculations. Admittedly, after your first uniformed year, you could reuse uniforms you’ve already paid for. But, you still need to face that hefty upfront cost before you do that.

The time it takes to change

Now, we’re onto the less obvious expenses. These are the ones which often catch employers off guard. Did you know, for instance, that your requirement here means you have to pay employees for the time it takes them to change into their uniforms? This can be tricky, as the majority of staff will change before heading to work. In that instance, you have no real way of knowing what length of time this has taken them. But, the majority of employees do this because they aren’t aware of this rule. Don’t think, though, that you can keep them in the dark about this. If a member of your team did get wind of your obligation here, they would be well within their rights to contact employment lawyers like Brady & Associates. If the matter went to court, you could end facing hefty fines as well as a backlog of wages. Your best bet, then, would be to come clean about this as soon as you implement uniforms. Encourage staff to get changed in the staff locker room after clocking in each day. Of course, you need to ensure they aren’t wasting time chatting and messing around on your watch here. But, giving them a ten-minute window to change each shift should more than cover you here.

The cleaning bills



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It’s also worth noting the amount your employees spend on cleaning bills. There are false claims about this issue, with many employees believing management has to pay for things like washing powder. That’s not usually the case though and you may want to check your state legislation. For the most part, you’re under no obligation to pay those cleaning bills. What you do need to bear in mind is that most states claim employers have to pay for excessive cleaning costs. If the material of your uniforms requires dry cleaning, for instance, there’s a chance you’ll need to provide compensation. Equally, very soiled uniforms may be your responsibility. In these instances, you should either clean uniforms or provide a weekly cleaning wage. In general, this should either be on hours pay at minimum wage, or the exact price of the dry-cleaning bill. That may seem like a drop in the ocean, but a minimum of $8 per week, per employee could soon add up over a few years of uniform usage.


If you weren’t confused about the uniform argument before, you probably are now. As we mentioned at the start, this issue doesn’t seem to have any clear right or wrong answers. While it’s tempting to assume these costs aren’t worthwhile, the matter isn’t even that simple. The fact is that you need to consider a few different things before even settling on that much. But, don’t worry, we aren’t leaving you in the dark. We’re going to summarize with a brief look at whether these costs would be worthwhile for you. All you need to do to decide is consider:

The exposure uniforms could bring

The fact is that uniforms are their own kind of marketing. If you put your logo on those t-shirts, your staff become walking advertisements. If they’re out in public for all to see, the increased sales from this could more than cover costs. If, however, your team sit in an office all day, this might not work for you.

The size of your team

It’s also worth considering the size of your team. Uniform for a large workforce is sure to cost a fair amount of your profit each year. By comparison, uniform for a smaller team will remain reasonably achievable.


The decision, then, is entirely down to you.

Elita Torres

I have over 20 years experience as a leader, first as a General Manager for several Big Box retailers with over 100 employees, then as a district manager overseeing an average of 23 stores. Currently, I am a Sales Director overseeing 4 Districts. My passion for leadership and personal development has led me to share my journey in a Blog. Find out more on