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Last August, I wrote an (Dutch) article in collaboration with Kim Hendriks about whether your employer can obligate you to pay for your company clothing or work shoes. I wrote this in response to two ladies who asked me for advice. A few weeks ago I received a similar question from another reader, except this time it was about safety shoes.
The man in question works in the transport world. His employer reimburses the work clothing that he wears for his job. But he needs to pay for the mandatory safety shoes out of his own pocket. According to the employer, if the employee leaves the company, the shoes cannot be passed on to another employee. And that is the reason the employer will not reimburse the price of the shoes.
Making employees pay for safety shoes: is that allowed?
According to employment lawyer Suzanne Meijers, the employer does not have a good argument.
“When it comes to reimbursing company clothing or shoes, there are major differences. With presentable clothing, such as a suit, an employee can also wear it outside of working hours. So the employer can ask the employee to buy this himself.
With safety shoes, it concerns personal protective equipment. The employee must wear these to work safely. And a safe working environment is the employer’s responsibility. So the company must offer the shoes. Some companies work with an ordering system or employees can submit a receipt after purchase and they reimburse it in this way.
That an employee can leave is no reason not to reimburse the shoes. It is not a smart move by the employer, if something goes wrong in the workplace, the company has to bear the costs. Besides just providing the safety shoes, they must also be worn. And if this does not happen, they must instruct the employee to wear them.”
It should be clear: the employer is obliged to pay for safety shoes. As Meijers pointed out, they should not only be given shoes, employees should also be notified if they are not wearing them.
Besides the above arguments, I think the employer runs many more risks with this practice. When people have to buy their own work shoes, they are probably paying more attention to price than quality, especially if an employee is struggling financially. This can have consequences for safety.
As an employer, you can offer several models from which an employee can choose, but in time the shoes will need to be replaced. If shoes are not replaced, then they are not safe enough. An employee with a small budget might continue wearing old shoes just a little longer than is desirable.
In short: the employer must reimburse the costs for safety shoes. If he doesn’t, he is shooting himself in the foot. The costs of an industrial accident or sick employee are a lot higher than a pair of safety shoes.