The hotel industry here is under the spotlight over complaints that some female employees are not allowed to wear headscarves while at work.
The Union Network International-Malaysia Labour Centre (UNI-MLC) said in a statement on Monday (Nov 6) that it has received numerous complaints from female hotel employees saying that their management does not allow them to wear a headscarf at work.
UNI-MLC said students in hospitality and tourism courses have also been instructed to remove their headscarves before going on internships or the company would not hire them.
As a result, some employees have no choice but to remove their headscarf during work before putting it back on after work.
“This policy is practiced in international hotel chains that use the same standard operating procedure on uniforms in all the hotels in their chain globally,” its chairman Samuel Cheah Swee Hee said.
He added that there are many other employment opportunities for Muslim employees including working in the backhouse or choosing to work with one of the many hotels that incorporate the headscarf in its uniform.
"The problem is everyone wants to join the 5-star global hotel brand, but they do not want to follow the uniform policy that is their worldwide standard," he said.
However, the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) sees the ban as discriminatory and unnecessary, questioning the need for such restrictions in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Wafiq secretary Hazlin Chong said the local owners of these international hotel chains have a responsibility to raise the issue to its headquarters and ask for flexibility that allows staff to fulfill both religious and work requirements.
“Wafiq does not see wearing the hijab as a deterrence to any Muslim woman to perform her best at work any more than a person who does not wear the headscarf,” Chong said in a statement, calling the move “religious discrimination”.
UNI-MLC has urged the Human Resources Ministry to address this issue and come up with a guideline to avoid any form of discrimination amongst women in the hotel industry.
"By not allowing female Muslim staff to wear headscarves to work, not only does this deny them of their rights to practice their religion freely but also limit them from pursuing a career of their choice," said UNI-MLC president Datuk Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal.