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Does Enforced Workwear Contravene Human Rights

Mar 21, 2008
Workwear is a very broad term. There are obvious professions where workwear is a set standard. Coveralls for mechanics, business suits for insurance salesmen, spacesuits for astronauts, scrubs for surgeons, you see where I'm going with this.

However, there are many offices and shops where the term workwear means different things to different people. In the office where I work at the moment, most people's idea of workwear is the every-day stuff of jeans, t-shirt and trainers which is great! For those days where there are client meetings, a business suit is, of course, standard.

I love making jeans part of my workwear. It means I can concentrate on my job and not be distracted by pulling skirts to a respectable place when sitting or shirts becoming un-tucked from trousers etc. Funny though - turn up in dress, stockings and heels and there are no complaints from the male members of staff either!

Of course, in some professions, stockings and heels are considered standard workwear. And the shorter the skirt, the more money you are likely to earn!

Workwear often serves as a protective element too, as in the case of mechanics. There are also the jobs where workwear is meant as a protection to the materials you are working with such as in a laboratory or hospital where your surroundings need to be protected from contaminants that you may bring in on your own clothes.

It also serves as a uniform. Many chain stores can be recognised by the colour of their uniform and this helps customers identify the people they can direct their questions to. Personally, I always found it easier to look for the two bored looking women who are deeply embroiled in their own conversation. You wait on the outskirts, listening to the mind numbing chat of everyday trivia and hope they will notice you before you forget what you came for.

Even in these days of human rights being at the heart of everything, we can't always make our own choices when it comes to workwear. Imagine an astronaut deciding he didn't like the colour of his space suit, or the fact that it made his bum look big. He'd be in big trouble if he decided to exercise his human rights and make his own decisions about wearing his jeans and t shirt to work that day!

The effects of a uniform workwear are seen most obviously within the police force. Easily identifiable, purely the presence of such a uniform will cause many to feel guilty and check what they are doing. It often has the effect of calming all but the most volatile of situations. In fact, any uniform that slightly resembles a police officer will make onlookers take a second look and check their behaviour.

Most people know that workwear has an effect on attitude. There's nothing quite like getting home at the end of a long day and slinging that uniform on the floor to feel that your work day is over. It also has the opposite effect. Get up in the morning and put that workwear on, preferably not straight from the floor, and you are immediately transported into that frame of mind that sets you up for the day.

That is, of course, unless you are a prostitute, when you're workwear ends up on the floor during the course of business!
About the Author
HR expert Catherine Harvey looks at the effect of workwear on daily business.
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