Banking giant introduces casual workwear policy in bid to attract top IT talent

Goldman Sachs is relaxing its historically strict dress code in an attempt to woo young IT and tech workers.

In a memo sent to all technology and engineering staff last month, Goldman Sachs’ chief information officer, Elisha Wiesel, revealed that the departments would now be adopting a “year-round casual dress code”.

However, the memo still urged workers to don smarter attire when the situation called for it. “Exercise judgement in determining when to adapt to business attire as circumstances dictate, particularly if you have a client meeting,” Wiesel wrote.

The 148-year-old bank is well known in the City for its strict dress code, which specifically bans clothing items such as shorts. However, given that around a quarter of the bank’s 33,000 employees are engineers, Goldman is facing fierce competition to attract and retain the best employees.

Alison Woods, co-head of employment at law firm CMS, said the move was “excellent”, and something that will “no doubt make [Goldman Sachs] more attractive” to a more diverse talent pool.

Woods added that, although the more relaxed dress code is a “small thing”, it may be that “employees see attitudes to issues like this as symbolic of an employer’s wider ethos and approach, and so perhaps should not be underestimated”.

Meanwhile, Alan Delaney, director of employment, pensions and immigration at Maclay Murray & Spens, said the bank’s new policy “definitely makes business sense in the highly competitive battle for talent, especially within the technology sector where a more relaxed approach to workwear has long been taken”, and it was “highly likely” that other employers would follow suit.

“Many companies are keen to stress their modern credentials,” said Delaney. “The reality facing employers is that the new generation of workers have very different expectations to those who have gone before.”

Hilary Aldred, partner in Penningtons Manches’ employment team, said the move “seems to reflect a growing trend to move away from strict dress codes”. She added: “Strict requirements are now frequently seen as being outmoded. It is inevitable that dress codes will continue to be relaxed because there really is no justification for having to wear certain clothes.”

The law does not set out specific rules on dress codes so employers can, in theory, adopt any code it feels is appropriate.

Fellow banking giant JPMorgan relaxed its dress code last year, adopting a firm-wide business casual policy, because it felt it was unnecessary to enforce the more traditional ‘suit and tie’ look.

Meanwhile, the Trades Union Congress last month called on employers to relax their dress codes to help workers cope with the summer heat. The warm weather also led groups of men, including bus drivers in France and students in Exeter, to wear skirts in protest of the fact that they were not allowed to wear shorts.

Related stories

Employers ‘must be re-educated on workplace dress codes’

Government stops short of new legislation; requirement for ‘equivalent level of smartness’ between sexes remains in place

Dress codes remain fraught with difficulty

Following this week’s CJEU decision on religious clothing, legal expert Alan Delaney considers the requirements employers can stipulate in a dress code