Employers who treat their staff like children

Why is it that some employers treat their staff like schoolchildren? The following story was all over the news today:

This is the new face of work in Australia’s hotel and hospitality industry, where a template Australian Workplace Agreement is being rolled out that strips all award conditions and replaces them with a starting wage of just $13.47 an hour.

At the same time, workers at one motel restaurant have been given instructions not to wear perfume or aftershave, nor to rub their nose or even “pull at a slipping bra strap”.

A handbook distributed to staff also contains standards for grooming and hygiene, including bans on:

  • HAIR ornaments, necklaces, bracelets and rings (not wedding rings);
  • PERFUME and aftershave; and
  • RUNNING fingers through hair, pushing hair out of eyes, rubbing nose, scratching, adjusting clothing, yawning and “pulling at bra strap”.

From dire warnings about the consequences of not keeping one’s desk tidy, to stories of supervisors timing employees’ trips to the toilet, some employers just seem incapable of recognising that their employees aren’t five year olds. The above story, if true, is just too ridiculous for words. Now, while a number of those directives make sense for food handlers… yawning? Adjusting clothing? I imagine being sacked from an environment like that would be nothing less than liberating. (As an aside, I’m also intrigued by the differentiation between wedding-rings, and non-wedding rings. Another sign that unmarried people are second class citizens in Australia? Surely if it’s unhygenic to wear a ring around food, then a ring with a deity’s blessing is hardly going to make a difference).

And it seems that, time and time again, it is small business that is guilty of some of the worst offences. My apologies to any readers who own or work in a well-run small business, but let’s face it, you’re in a minority. I’ve seen examples of so many that are either run by nutjobs, have constant cash-flow issues and have trouble paying their staff, or simply just have some of the most brain-dead work practices that it’s a wonder they even managed to register a business name for themselves, let alone survive for a couple of years. Perhaps the process for registering business names is just a little too easy.

Anyway, it didn’t surprise me in the least to find that the above Horror-Workplace-Of-The-Week story was about a small business (albeit, a member of a larger chain).

I recall the manager of one (of only two, fortunately) former small-business employer of mine giving a lecture to all staff about how they should say “good morning” to each other, every day … and then at another time, insisting that all staff report to him before they left each day, to make sure that there was no more work to be done; effectively forcing them to request permission to leave. It didn’t do anything for staff morale, although the facetious sounds of “GOOD MORNING” yelled across the room each day for the next week made for more than a few laughs; I suppose the theory was that if we were going to be treated like children, we might as well act like them.

3 responses to “Employers who treat their staff like children

  1. You’ve been tagged. Hope that you don’t mind.

    National Day of Secularism, 26 May.

    Blog against theocracy.


  2. There was a follow up to this story. The bra strap adjustment was about keeping hands clean – the woman running the motel in question said that as long as the staff washed their hands afterwards, it was OK. They had apparently been using this (externally provided) handbook for some time before anyone actually READ it critically.

    She was almost in tears, saying that they had received hate mail, threatening phone calls and many cancellations – the reaction was extreme.

  3. Fantastic ideas. Awesome material. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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