One too many employees in the private sector are forced to buy uniforms for themselves but a labour inspection report says that there is no legal requirement for them to do so.
“… the Employment Act only mentions protective clothing and is silent on staff uniform thus it is for the employer and employee to agree on the conditions of the implementation. None of the two parties is forced to comply with the other’s request. But if there is no consensus then the employer in this instance will have to foot the bill of the uniform in the spirit of fairness as this is his requirement as a basis for corporate image,” says a report of an inspection carried out at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.
This would apply not just to Limkokwing but all other employers.
The uniform issue is one of the flagrant breaches of labour law by some employers, especially those in the hospitality industry. A woman who has worked for 15 years waiting tables in some six restaurants says that she has had to buy her uniform from each one of her employers. Currently the average cost for a T-shirt is P200, P60 for an apron, P20 for an opener and P20 for a table cloth. Other employers don’t sell the uniform but require staff to wear certain colours ÔÇô normally black and white.
“The reason employers give for selling uniforms to us is that we can leave at anytime and so they would lose,” the waitress says.
John Kula, the chairperson of the Liquor Traders Association (which draws a majority of its members from the hospitality industry) says that he is not sure about what the law says on the issue. That notwithstanding, he says it would be ‘silly’ to require employees to wear uniforms that employers themselves do not provide.
“I don’t think that is fair on employees because uniform is just like a computer ÔÇô it’s a tool used on the job. I understand the point about employees not returning the uniform when they leave but it’s unfair to sell them uniforms. Personally, I think that it is silly but I have to state that this is not necessarily the opinion of the association. But if we happen to discuss this issue, I will tell other members that it is silly to expect employees to wear uniform you don’t provide as an employer,” Kula says.