The Mears Group has caused outrage with its decision to ban employees from having beards.
The UK firm told staff-members they must be clean-shaven, but the reason is more for health and safety than aesthetics.
Staff were told of the decision at a “tool box talk” in Tower Hamlets, east London, that beards were now banned so that workers could “wear appropriate dust masks effectively”.
The construction company said Goatees may be allowed “so long as it does not hinder the correct fitting of said dust masks,” according to the bosses. If you have a beard for religious or medical reasons you must provide a letter from your doctor or place of worship.
In a letter sent out to employees, the workers were told that dust masks were discussed at a health and safety meeting and the Health and Safety Executive took a “strong stance” on the matter. The reason the ban has been brought in is that facial hair makes it “impossible” to create a good seal between the face and mask.
“If you are clean-shaven when wearing tight-fitting masks (ie those which rely on a good seal to the face), this will help prevent leakage of contaminated air around the edges of the mask and into your lungs,” according to guidelines from the regulator.
If staff-members fail to comply with the rules, they will apparently be “taken down the disciplinary route.”
But people are not happy with the new ruling, and the Unite union have called it “penny-pinching stupidity”.
“The arrogance of Mears is hair-raising,” said Mark Soave, Unite’s officer for London.
This is a highly delicate issue, which has huge cultural, religious and personal issues and where sensitivity should be the watchword. Mears have responded saying that in fact only a “very small percentage” of its workers will be affected by the new rule and it’s not a money-saving measure.