The Dorchester is certainly one of the most luxurious hotels in the UK, but no business should be powerful enough to dictate how female staff groom their bodies as the renowned hotel intends to do.
A list of the rules the business expects its female staff to abide by has caused a considerable backlash due to the excessive demand they involved. The content of the new regulations was leaked by staff of The Dorchester after they received an email from the hotel’s managers outlining the changes.
The five-star hotel claims the changes are justifiable as they are was researched in relation to recent customer complaints over the hygiene of staff members, but the nature of the demands is deeply unfair; with content including how women are not to report for work if they have ‘oily skin’, ‘bad breath’ or ‘garish makeup’. There are also suggestions that women manicure their fingernails, shave their legs and wear formal dresses.
A dress code policy is necessary for a business to ensure its desired image is projected, however, the extent of the detail requested by the Dorchester shows an objectification of female workers which could be considered discriminatory as it dictates a notion of what femininity is rather than it being an individual’s personal expression.
The dress codes involved can also be considered impractical for performing certain tasks, such as preventing a waitress’s ability to move comfortably while working.
There is also concern that other rules in the list such as removal of hair could encroach on religious freedom of expression which workers are entitled to. The rights of workers against discrimination is protected under the 2010 Equality Act, which supports employee ‘protected characteristics’, including age, sexuality, religion, gender and disability.
A requirement like a manicure is also an unfair obligation as the financial expense of the beauty products involved is not supported by The Dorchester. Any rule involving the use of beauty products should at least be provided to employees; especially as workers in the hospitality industry often struggle financially.
Furthermore, workers from certain ethnic background may find that following The Dorchester’s rules an issue due to their natural skin and hair types being unsuitable for the desired modifications. The rules appear to require female workers to conform to a westernised expectation of femininity.
The Dorchester’s grooming rules has already been criticised by several organisations. Chief executive of the Fawcett Society, Sam Smethers, believes ‘employers should concentrate on what enables people to do a good job and what drives productivity’ rather than their looks.
In an anonymous interview with the Daily Mail, a Dorchester worker stated the treatment of she and her colleagues is ‘like something out of the dark ages and downright offensive. It’s not as though you choose to have oily skin, and a lot of women, especially teenagers, cannot help it […] The women are all pretty livid but worry that if they complain or rebel they’ll be sacked on the spot.”
It also cannot be overlooked that the new rules are focused on female employees rather than male. Any new dress code or grooming policy should certainly apply to male employees where an equivalent can be made possible. However, no new rules have been suggested for men.
Roland Fasel, the Dorchester’s general manager, has spoken in defence of the new rules as an effort to ‘uphold world-leading hospitality standards, including grooming, in line with many other brands.’