PETALING JAYA | The proposed dress code for women Muslim workers in the private sector has received the thumbs up from non-governmental organisations, but they stressed that staff should not be judged solely by the way they dress.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general J. Solomon said to implement the dress code, policies need to be put in place and effectively communicated at all levels in the industry, including training institutions.

He said the Malaysian Association of Hotels can play a better role to facilitate adoption of the dress code in the hospitality industry.

“It is for Muslim women to choose whether to wear headscarves. Employers should not stipulate that their (female) Muslim employees should not wear the headscarf,” he said.

“Ultimately, whether one dons headscarf will not be important, (it is) how effective the person is in the role as a frontliner that matters.”

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh had told the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday that Muslim women working in the private sector, particularly those in frontline positions, will soon be allowed to wear headscarves while on duty.

Solomon said the private sector had always been hiring Muslim women who wear headscarves. However, headscarves can’t be worn by frontline staff in international hotel chains.

“They need to understand that there is cultural diversity across the world,” he said.

“Having the same dress code does not in itself make a hotel chain world class. What should matter to them is good service by those on duty. As such, dress code by hotel chains should not be overly restrictive.”

Majidah Hashim of Sisters In Islam said the current practice that prohibits frontline hotel staff from wearing headscarves is discriminatory and infringes on freedom of expression.

However, women should not be judged by how they are dressed and any corporate dress code should reflect professionalism in their occupation, she pointed out.

“We are concerned about authorities and employers using dress codes to morally police Muslim women,“ Majidah said.

“The need to strictly control what women wear implies that she is unable to make the decision on her own and that she is a threat to social order. This obsession needs to stop.”

She said women have come far and achieved great heights in education and the corporate sector.

“Women must be recognised for their important contributions to our economy and society, instead of how they are dressed.”