Q&A – Who washes the work clothes: employees or the employer?

If employees are obliged to wear work clothes, you, as an employer, are responsible for the maintenance and cleaning of those clothes. Your organisation should wash the workwear itself or call in a specialised company to do so.

In case of obligation: the employer

Certain groups of employees are legally obliged to wear work clothes so that they do not get dirty during their work. Nurses and kitchen staff, for example. The risk analysis shows whether or not work clothes are required.

If so, you are responsible for the purchase, repair, maintenance and timely replacement of that clothing. This includes washing the outfit. You can do this either in your own organisation or you can outsource that task to a professional laundry company.

As an employer, you can also impose a professional uniform even if the risk analysis does not prescribe work clothing. Think of the employees at reception. In this case, other collective agreements and regulations apply.​

And what about for a fee?

for a fee. However, in practice this is often the case. Only if the collective agreement in your sector explicitly allows this, will workers be allowed to wash their own professional workwear. This is the case, for example, in construction.

In any case, the maintenance of work clothing must not pose a risk to the health of employees and others. In addition, you must provide clear washing and maintenance instructions.

3 rules of thumb for washing work clothes

  1. Give the washing instructions from the supplier to the laundry service employees. This clearly explains how best to maintain the workwear, without damaging the material. If you did not receive written instructions with the delivery, please ask for it specifically.

  2. Regardless of who washes the work clothes (you, employees or a specialised company), only laundry detergents that reduce wear and tear on the clothes are recommended. They contain as few chemical substances as possible (perfumes, dyes, etc.). They can cause allergic reactions, such as an itchy rash or sneezing fit. If you treat the clothes with a disinfectant, this product must be approved in accordance with the Royal Decree of 8 May 2014.

  3. Specific measures apply in certain sectors. Think of care institutions. There, wet or humid textiles should never be left in a washing machine over night, and special attention should be paid to work clothes that have been stained with blood. Ask your prevention advisor about the rules for your organisation.

Don't give hygiene risks a chance

A question about washing work clothes? Contact us on +32 2 549 71 00 or mail us. We are happy to help.

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