Returning to work this week? How to wear and clean your uniform safely

The reopening of non-essential retail shops this week will see thousands of Brits return to work for the first time since March.

But, with the threat of COVID-19 still lurking, workers and the public still need to “stay alert” and take steps to stop the transmission of the virus. 

Retail is one of the largest sectors which issues staff with branded uniforms. COVID-19 means staff are now expected to clean their uniforms thoroughly after each shift and take extra precautions while at work.

To help make your return to work as safe as possible, Tony Mills from Uniform Tax Rebate gives top tips for disinfecting your uniform to reduce the risk of transmission…


Follow the rules

It may sound simple, but to reduce your exposure to the virus, it’s important to follow government and your workplace’s guidelines.

Washing your hands regularly while on shift, lathering and scrubbing them for 20 seconds and rinsing off with warm water, will help kill the virus and reduce transmission. 

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and always keep a 2 metre distance from colleagues and customers. 

While experts are divided on how long the virus can survive on different surfaces, including fabrics, these steps will reduce the chances of virus droplets sticking to your clothing.


Travel in different clothes

You might be used to commuting to and from work in your uniform, but it’s important you now travel in a different set of clothes, particularly if you use public transport at crowded times.

If you can, change into your uniform as soon as you arrive at work and when you leave, change back. Store your used uniform in a bag, preferably one that can be sealed or wrapped up. 

As an extra precaution, consider giving the soles of your shoes or any areas of the house you may have walked with them on, a quick sanitising, preferably with disinfectant spray or diluted bleach.


Clean your uniform after each day

When you arrive home, keep your uniform separated from the other items in your laundry pile. 

As long as COVID-19 remains a serious threat, it’s best to wash your uniform after each working day or shift. Pandemic aside, uniforms are a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty bacteria so it’s a good habit to get into.

Evidence shows the new coronavirus is surrounded by a fatty membrane that is vulnerable to soap, so cleaning your uniform in a washing machine is key. A short stint in the dryer, if you have one, can also help kill off any remaining particles.

The WHO and other experts recommend setting your machine to its highest heat setting (usually 60-90 degrees Celsius). At this temperature, many viruses including many coronavirus strains, are deactivated meaning any virus left on the clothing is no longer contagious.


Claim a tax entitlement

If you wear a uniform at work and you’re expected to clean, repair and replace it, you’re likely able to claim a tax rebate to help with the financial costs.

Basic-rate taxpayers can claim £12 and higher-rate taxpayers £24 per year, backdated to five years. This could mean a £60 boost for a basic-rate taxpayer.

There are growing calls for the government to increase tax allowances for uniformed workers during the pandemic, to better represent the actual cost of what people are paying to sanitise their uniforms at home.

There is also a live petition on the UK Government’s website that any member of the public can sign to show their support for this policy change.


Discuss concerns with your boss

If you feel unsure or anxious about following safety procedures during the pandemic, speak to your boss who may be able to provide extra support or guidance. 

Make sure that you have been issued with enough uniform to cover the number of days or shifts you are working in a week. If you don’t think you have enough and will be unable to wash the uniform that you do have as often as every one-to-two days, request more.

If your washing machine is broken or you usually rely on a local launderette, see if there is any additional financial support available as part of your workplace’s health and safety policy.