Tangs has made an immediate change to ensure its customer-facing front liners are able to wear religious headgear, effective today. This comes after the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) is reportedly investigating an incident at Tangs department store which allegedly involved a part-time promoter for a pop-up booth being told to remove her hijab in order to work on in the store.
A spokesperson from Tangs told Marketing that it has made an immediate change to ensure a policy that uniformly respects all its employees and its brand partners. "Our corporate office, and back-of-house colleagues wear religious headgear, and we have standardised this practice to include all customer-facing front liners with effect Friday, 21 August. Our employees, and our brand partners are now provided the flexibility to wear their religious headgear, should they choose to," she explained.
Tan added that as a Singaporean company with a diverse, and multi-racial workforce, it must respect cultural and religious practices and requirements on all accounts. The issue first rose when part-time promoter was allegedly told by Tangs employees to remove her hijab to be allowed to work at the pop-up booth, TODAY reported. Although the promoter was eventually allowed to keep her hijab on for the rest of the day, the exchange between both parties allegedly garnered attention from other shoppers nearby.
The part-time promoter was representing artisan brand Anastasia by Raine, reported TODAY, and the brand had reportedly posted Instagram Stories concerning the incident. According to TODAY, screenshots of the Instagram Stories eventually began circulating online. After the exchange between Tangs and the part-time promoter, Anastasia by Raine allegedly received a text message from Tangs requesting it to clear the booth, when the original agreement for the space was until 13 August. Marketing has reached out to Tangs and anastasiabyraine for comment.
Singapore's President Halimah Yacob has also spoken up about the issue amidst the TAFEP investigation. She said in a Facebook post that Tangs has since said that they would remove such restrictions and will allow the hijab to be worn at work. According to her, discrimination of any form and against anyone has no place at all in the society and, most certainly, not at the workplace. "People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else. Discrimination at the workplace is particularly disturbing because it deprives the person affected from earning a living," she added.
Halimah also said that during this COVID-19 period when concerns over jobs and livelihoods are greater, incidents of discrimination exacerbate anxieties and people feel threatened. "Diversity is our strength and our society has already embraced it. I hope that employers too will fully embrace diversity at the workplace and do their part to uphold the values of a fair and open society," she said.
This is not the first time Halimah has spoken up about social issues on social media. In June, she called out local podcast OKLETSGO for being offensive towards women. She previously said that the best way to educate a community on respect for women, is a lifetime process, starting at a very young age, and the responsibility “resides with every one of us, and particularly those who have great influence over people through social media”.
Meanwhile, Zaqy Mohamad, senior minister of state in the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry for Defence, also confirmed in a Facebook post that TAFEP has reached out to the parties involved and is currently looking into the matter. The senior minister said that employers should be thoughtful of the policies and practices they set, including inclusivity at their workplaces. According to him, religious attire should generally be allowed at workplaces, unless employers have uniform, or dress code requirements which are suited to the nature of their work, or for operational and safety reasons.
"I also urge employers to regularly review these policies and take into consideration the views and sensitivities of their stakeholders, such as their employees, customers and business partners," he said. He added that the TAFEP makes it clear that recruitment and hiring are to be based on merit and the ability to perform the job. According to Zaqy, it is important for employers to communicate their uniform policy or dress code clearly and sensitively to their employees and jobseekers and their stakeholders.
"To me, this is an important issue for the community. Workplaces are an important part of the common space where people interact and work with one another regardless of cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds," he said.
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