Employees With Body Odour

To quote the Times ‘fresh sweat doesn’t smell of much and body odour is only produced when bacteria living on the skin break it down into smellier products’.

Apparently one in every 200 British employees has a body odour problem. That means that 6% of UK employers are likely to have an employee who smells. No I don’t know where they get these stats from either but it is probably in the right ball park.
Some of the usual causes for smelly employees are listed below

  • Not washing/showering often enough. Apparently 20% of Britons wash four times a week or less.
  • Not changing clothes often enough.
  • Exercising at lunchtime and not showering afterwards.
  • Stress makes people sweat (apparently this is the most pungent kind of sweat). 
  • Hormonal changes. 1% of the UK population suffer from Hyperhidrosis, a long-term sweating condition.

This is a difficult and embarrassing issue to tackle most people would prefer not to confront it head on. However not addressing it will lead to continuing issues with other staff members and a loss of morale. Obvious things like opening windows leaving out anti perspirant probably won’t work, regrettably you will need to discuss the problem directly with the employee.

The employee has to be made aware of the effect the problem is having on other staff members. Clearly as a manager you should treat this tactfully and try not embarrass the employee unduly obviously have the conversation in private. Try to determine if there is some underlying cause which has led to the problem domestic issues? or a medical condition?

You have to tell the employee about the condition in clear and unambiguous terms.. Describe the issue as you see it, but be sympathetic. This won’t be much fun for the employee. Try to set it in the context of a business issue, for example, the impact on customers or colleagues. Ask the employee if he or she has a relevant medical condition or whether there is anything in his or her personal life which could be causing the problem.

You have to be clear the situation cannot be allowed to continue try to set a reasonable timeframe for improvement and follow it up. Try to be as supportive as possible to the employee who no doubt will also be embarrassed but make it clear if there is no sustained improvement it may become a disciplinary issue unless of course there is some underlying medical condition