For employers, it can be incredibly awkward to address employee body odour in the workplace.

But when does bad hygiene turn into something intolerable? And what rights do employers have when it comes to disciplining an employee over smell?

Body odour may influence how clients perceive your company, potentially damaging relationships and hindering business opportunities. 

So, can you be fired for smelling bad at work? Well as it turns out, yes.

Can you be fired for smelling at work?

Most famously, a reporter was dismissed from the Kidderminster Shuttle in 1999 because of intolerable body odour.

The case was upheld by an employment tribunal because the employee had been spoken to about his appearance and odour on several occasions.

The case highlights the importance of addressing such issues quickly and fairly.

If someone in the workplace has an issue with body odour, then HR should be notified as soon as possible, MetisHR explains.

This is to ensure that both parties can come to an amicable solution and save a lot of embarrassment.

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What can make someone smell at work?

There are a whole host of reasons and some aren't necessarily people's fault.

  • Stress
  • Gender (men sweat more than women)
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain health conditions
  • The weather

Some, however, can be helped in part.

  • Not washing/showering often enough. 
  • Not changing clothes often enough.
  • Going for a lunchtime run and not showering afterwards.
  • Eating too much spicy food

Ultimately, ignoring body odour issues will have employees believing it is acceptable and management is unwilling to address uncomfortable but necessary conversations.

This will naturally create a negative workplace.