Skirting around nurses’ right to wear pants

6th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Despite intervention of the government, the privately-run clinic has pointedly ignored female nurses’ grievances of not being able to wear trousers for safety reasons.

6 May 2008

CADIZ - The owners of the privately run San Rafael Clinic in Cádiz have told female nursing staff that they must continue to wear traditional pale-blue uniforms with a white apron that leave their legs exposed from the knee down.

Nurses at the hospital have been in dispute with the owners, J. M. Pascual, after several were docked a EUR 50 productivity bonus at the end of March for wearing trousers on duty.

The female nurses say that equal-rights legislation means they should be allowed to wear trousers, as their male colleagues do. They also point out that from a health and safety standpoint, trousers are more practical, and offer better protection against spillages or minor accidents.

Following complaints by the nurses' union on 31 March, the regional government of Andalusia's labour department threatened the hospital's owners with a EUR 6,251 fine for a possible contravention of equal rights legislation. It also required J. M. Pascual to carry out a report into health risks to staff that could arise as a result of its uniform policy.

The hospital says that it commissioned a report. But the final text pointedly ignores the nurses' main grievance, and its main conclusion is that the traditional nurses' bonnet should be replaced.

 "The bonnet is not the most efficient way for professionals to keep their hair up, and the company should change this policy and use caps for this purposes, regardless of the sex of the employee," reads the report.

The requirements of the report have been posted on notice boards in the clinic, and will be officially passed on to trades union health and safety delegates on 12 May.

"This is just another example of the typical sexist policies of this company," says Adela Sastre, head of the employees' committee. "They talk about prevention, but the report says nothing about forcing us to leave our legs exposed. It completely ignores the real issue," she adds.

Cleaning uniforms
But the company has accepted that nurses should no longer have to clean their own uniforms, which Sastre says was their responsibility until now. "This put the health of nurses' families at risk," says the employees' committee in a statement.

The company says that it will be particularly vigilant in applying the measures required by the health and safety report.

"It is absolutely forbidden for employees to wear their uniforms outside of the workplace, or to carry out any other activity in them outside the workplace," says a hospital statement.

Meanwhile, the city's employment department has yet to decide if it will press ahead with the EUR 6,251 fine imposed by the labour ministry for the possible contravention of equal rights legislation.

The female nurses who had been docked their productivity bonus for wearing trousers have since been paid.

[El Pais / Pedro Espinosa / Expatica]

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