The Tangs department store has announced it has reversed its policy on religious headgear effective today after drawing criticism over a sales promoter who was told to remove her hijab.
In response to Coconuts Singapore’s queries, Tangs said that it has always allowed its employees in the corporate and “back-of-house” to don the religious headgear, but will now extend that policy to all employees and partners, including workers out front serving customers.
“We hear you, and we agree,” its statement read. “As a Singaporean company with a diverse, and multi-racial workforce, we must respect cultural and religious practices and requirements on all accounts. We have made an immediate change to ensure a policy that uniformly respects all our employees and our brand partners.”
It later added: “Our employees, and our brand partners are now provided the flexibility to wear their religious headgear, should they choose to. Thank you for helping us do better.”
Muslim women in Singapore are generally allowed to don the hijab at workplaces except in uniformed professions such as nursing and the police force. However, complaints have surfaced in the past involving other jobs. In 2016, a woman named Sharifah Begum claimed she was told to remove her hijab when applying for a position at a private preschool.
The change in Tangs’ policy was the result of an incident late last month in which an outside vendor operating at a pop-up booth was told to remove her head covering.
Tangs’ response came after President Halimah Yacob weighed in to label what happened a form of discrimination. She said jobs and livelihoods are greater concerns amid the economically destructive COVID-19 pandemic.
Scenes of the incident at the Orchard Road store were posted to Instagram by the vendor. She said store employees ordered her part-timer to remove hijab or leave despite having weeks left on her contract for the space. She left.
Responding to the latest developments and comments from the president, the vendor told Coconuts Singapore she hopes other workplaces would reconsider such discriminatory policies as well.
“I am hoping to bring to the attention of all workplaces [especially] the frontline that there should be no reason or logic for this kind of discrimination, and they really need to review their skewed practices if they are practising it,” said the 36-year-old woman, who declined to give her name citing fear of losing her job in the public sector.
“I hope similar workplaces that have the same or similar practices will take this as a wake up call to make positive changes,” she added.
In light of this episode, Coconuts Singapore contacted other departmental stores in Singapore to inquire about their policies. Two major chains, BHG and Isetan, responded to say they have no restrictions on employees wearing hijabs.
“While we do have uniforms, we have no restrictions set against the donning of hijabs by our Muslim colleagues both in the frontline and back-end roles,” BHG’s statement read.
”We allow our female Muslim staff to don the Hijab during work,” according to Isetan.
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