Tangs changes policy to allow all front-line staff, including contractors, to wear religious headgear from Friday

The standardisation of its dress code will apply to both employees and external brand partners of the department store. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

SINGAPORE - All customer-facing staff at Tangs can don religious headgear while at work from Friday (Aug 21), if they choose to do so.

They will join their corporate office and back-of-house colleagues, who already have the flexibility to wear religious headgear.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Tangs said that the standardisation of its dress code will apply to both employees and external brand partners of the department store.

"We have made an immediate change to ensure a policy that uniformly respects all our employees and our brand partners," Tangs told ST.

On Thursday morning, President Halimah Yacob condemned in strong terms discrimination at the workplace, and said it is particularly disturbing, as it deprives the person affected from earning a living.

This is especially so given that Covid-19 has heightened worries over jobs and livelihoods, and incidents of discrimination "exacerbate anxieties and people feel threatened".

"Discrimination of any form and against anyone has no place at all in our society," she said.

Madam Halimah was responding to the case of a 20-year-old sales promoter who was asked by Tangs to remove her hijab to work on its premises.

"People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else," she said.

On July 29, part-time handbag promoter Nurin Jazlina Mahbob was working at a pop-up booth of Tangs at Tang Plaza in Orchard Road when she was asked by staff of the department store to remove her head scarf. It was Ms Jazlina's first day on the job.

Two female Tangs managers told her that she could not work in the store with a hijab on, as the company did not allow front-line staff to wear any headgear, Ms Jazlina, 20, told ST.

The managers then explained to her that removing her hijab was "for the sake of professionalism".

Ms Jazlina said she found the request insulting, as "wearing a hijab is not only required by my religion, it is also a symbol of my modesty.".

Following the incident, Ms Jazlina's employer, who wanted to be known only as Ms Chin, posted about it on social media.

Ms Chin said that the rules Tangs had were "very ridiculous", adding: "The last thing we need is the discrimination and unfair treatment (Tangs) put my part-timer and myself through."

Earlier in the week, Tangs said in response to queries from ST that its rules, including on dress code and decorum on its premises, applied to all customer-facing staff, including promoters, and was shared during an onsite partner induction process.

Ms Chin said she was not informed of the guidelines, as the briefing on July 27 was attended by another of her part-timers.

Tangs acknowledged that there was a lapse in communication with Ms Chin.

"In this instance, unfortunately, our standard operating procedure was not followed. We have looked into this and remedial action has been taken," said the Tangs spokesman.

"Our staff reminded Ms Chin of our guidelines and unfortunately, our reminders were received negatively. We meant no harm and bore no ill will when we reiterated our guidelines," the spokesman said, adding that the store has reached out to Ms Chin to apologise and clarify its intention.

When contacted on Thursday, after Tangs announced its plan to standardise its dress code, Ms Jazlina said she was thankful Ms Chin spoke up for her and for the change in Tangs' policy.

Ms Chin too was glad for the support and awareness her post had raised, saying: "We have been brought up to be a harmonious country, respecting one another... I hope we can all push for a fair and open society."

Additional reporting by Wong Shiying

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