Q&A – 30 April 2018

Employer forcing me to shave moustache

I am a front office manager for a hotel in Dar. There is a new General Manager who has arrived and in his so called ‘cleaning’ exercise has ordered me to shave my moustache as he wants clean shaven people in the hotel. I love my job but I also love my moustache. Can I be forced like this and can this lead to termination? Please guide.

ND, Dar

You have raised a very interesting question. We think, the new GM wants to change or rather improve what we call a dressing code (or dress code) although your moustache is not a ‘dress’ as such. A dressing code is an accepted way of dressing for a particular occasion or in a particular social group. We are not sure whether the GM’s directive wants all men working in your hotel to shave their moustaches, or whether the requirement is for the front office male staff only, or it targets you alone.

The manner of dressing in workplaces can vary from uniforms to suits and everything in between. Especially due to the now accepted casual dressing in various types of industries and businesses, including settings that formerly dictated formal business attire, there are standards of appearance business owners want to maintain. This is where a dress code comes in and is not always limited to clothing.

We must state that employers are entitled to set reasonable uniform standards and require employees to comply. Employers can introduce uniforms for a variety of reasons including work, health and safety reasons, hygiene reasons and style or branding reasons. All of these are good reasons for an employer to be allowed to reasonably and lawfully direct employees in relation to what they can wear and how to wear it.

We now come to your question on whether refusal to shave your moustache can lead to termination. Obviously non-compliance with a reasonable and lawful direction from an employer about wearing the uniform or complying with the dress code can result in disciplinary action that could eventually lead to termination of employment if you refuse to trim or shave your moustache. As with all disciplinary proceedings though, the hotel will have to take all of the circumstances into account, including taking you through a disciplinary hearing, before dismissing you.

We have no clue as to what your moustache looks like, its length, whether it is now differently styled, and whether it affects the hotel in a manner to jeopardise its business. Although the Labour Laws in Tanzania do not explicitly stipulate on dressing codes, employers are allowed to set reasonable and lawful terms and conditions, either generally or in individual employees’ contracts, including dressing codes, commensurate to their sectoral/industrial requirements or culture.

We cannot comment on the GMs directive without having all details but must mention that we do not see the reasonability in the sudden change in approach considering you have always had the moustache, unless of course it has gone through a metamorphosis that you have not disclosed to us. We must also state that a dressing code should be non-discriminative and should take into consideration of people with disability and medically privileged employees including religious beliefs.

As to medical privilege, we came across an interesting Australian case about dress and uniform, case of Virgin Australia International Airlines Pty Ltd (Virgin Australia) v David Taleski. In this case, an employee objected to being required to cut his hair in accordance with the Virgin policy referred to as the “look book”. Virgin terminated his employment as the result of his refusal to comply with the policy. After a lengthy process, it was eventually held that because of Mr Taleski’s medical condition it was not reasonable to require him to comply with the “look book” – particularly as he had proposed compliance by another method i.e. wearing a wig.

Work for pregnant woman

I am a technician in a company where I have been working for about four years. Although the foreman knows that I am presently expecting and my due date is in the next two months, he has been assigning me very hard jobs where I have to stand for long hours. I know he is intentionally doing this as my sister had turned down his proposal to marry him. Is there anything I can do to address this?

CM, Moshi

We wish to point out that the Employment and Labour Relations provides clearly that no employer shall require or permit a pregnant employee or an employee who is nursing a child to perform work that is hazardous to her health or the health of her child.

The test above is subjective and depends on what exact job is assigned to you. All in all, if the assignments given to you are hazardous to your pregnancy then that is against the law and the foreman needs to desist from such behaviour.

As a matter of creating a good atmosphere at work place and preventing abuse of powers, you may report this to your superior otherwise the matter is actionable under the law above.

On a different note if you expect to deliver in one month we wonder why you are still at work. The same law has given you an option of commencing your maternity leave any time from four weeks before the expected date. You may hence also ask your employer to start maternity leave. Your lawyers can guide you further.

Advertising with national flag

There is a company I know that is misusing our flag and selling products as if the products have been endorsed by the United Republic. Is there no law that governs this?

RT, Dar

The National Emblems Act provides very clearly on unlawful use of National Flag, Coat of Arms or any likeness thereof by prohibiting any person to use the National Flag, the Coat of Arms or any likeness of the National Flag or of the Coat of Arms.

Hence if the company or individual is using the flag as you claim, it is an offence and the person can be sentenced to two years imprisonment. However please be warned that not all usage of the national flag is illegal- you should consult your attorney for further guidance.