Limerick nurses object to ‘sexist’ dress code references

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

NURSES have objected to what they regard as “sexist” terminology in HSE proposals for a new dress code in acute hospitals in the Mid-West.

NURSES have objected to what they regard as “sexist” terminology in HSE proposals for a new dress code in acute hospitals in the Mid-West.

The HSE says such policies are commonplace in large institutions and the “purpose of introducing a dress code is to inculcate respect for self and respect for the public we serve”.

“The Mid Western Regional Hospitals Group believes employees should be professional in appearance and in attitude to their work at all times and should not place themselves or patients at risk in relation to health, safety, infection control or in any situation causing potential embarrassment.”

But the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has written to management that references to “skin-tight” clothing and “backless tops” in the draft policy document are stuck in the past.

It is understood that nurses are not regarded by management as the worst offenders however,

The policy document outline that there may be a number of exceptions made. These include where an employee has particular religious beliefs or is pregnant. No reference is made in the document to turbans, headscarves or crucifixes. But among the items regarded as “unacceptable” are “skin-tight clothing”, “very short mini-skirts, dresses or shorts” and “garments which reveal excessive cleavage”.

Mary Fogarty, INMO Limerick, said she had written to the HSE asking to remove from the policy “references to specific styles of clothing, words like skintight, and replace these references with words such as ‘comfortable’ and ‘appropriate’”.

“These references in the HSE circular to micro-skirts, backless tops, and clothing which reveals excessive cleavage are not acceptable. It is very sexist and I told the HSE that when I was responding to the dress code circular. I thought it was ridiculous and have never seen the like of it in over 30 years in the health service. The way it was worded was insulting to women hospital employees,” Ms Fogarty said.

The document also cautions male employees on the need to keep beards trim and remove ties “if a potentially dangerous situation arises”. Other elements, such as the requirement to cover up provocative tattoos, are gender-neutral.