Beards In The Workplace: Changing Beard Rules Around The World
It wasn't too long ago that having a beard at work was completely frowned upon or even completely prohibited. Lately, this has been changing - and at an incredibly fast rate.
Publix, a major employer in Florida who had held onto a no-beard rule for far too long, has in recent years changed its policy and employees are feeling grateful they can now come to work with a beard.
American military branches continue to discuss updates to their policies, driven by the need to include beards on religious grounds and whether this can (or should) be extended to all servicemen. However, despite years of reflection and debate, little changes with regard to its general rulings but military personnel such as those in the Navy hope that one day facial hair will become a matter of individual choice rather than an enforced policy.
The Canadian military announced an ease on restrictions in regards to their uniformed members having well groomed beards and mustaches, providing they are no more than two centimeters thick. An attempt to modernize the military, increase recruitment and improve morale was their reasoning behind the move. The only other restrictions apply to personnel operating in places where fire fighting equipment might be necessary. This decision followed two years of debate, and was announced along with other guideline easing: troops are also allowed to use marijuana and are no longer required to purchase their own boots!
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), have so far maintained a no-beard policy due to the possible impairment of proper use of breathing apparatus when placed over facial hair. However, in 2018 one bearded officer challenged the ruling and took the PSNI to a tribunal where evidence was presented that such apparatus is perfectly safe for beard wearers providing the beard is trimmed and the airtight seal is not broken. We particularly liked the quote: ‘Expert advice to the tribunal panel claimed men would need "a moustache like a walrus" for the equipment not to work properly! The findings of the tribunal have not yet been decided but are due imminently.
British police forces vary in their attitudes on a regional basis. Some feel the clean-shaven look presents a professional presence while others welcome diversity, but all allow beards on religious grounds.
Summer 2019 has seen the British Royal Air Force get up to date by abolishing its no-beard ruling in a move to promote inclusivity. Facial hair that is smart and neatly trimmed is now allowed but any RAF personnel not maintaining their mustaches and beards to a high standard will be ordered to neaten up or shave them off! Yet again the original ban stems from the possible breach of airtight seals on gas masks and breathing apparatus.
British Army and Navy have their own separate regulations, including a mustache-only ruling for the Army. Prince Harry, who married his American sweetheart Meghan Markle in May 2018, obtained special permission from his grandmother the Queen to keep his beard for the ceremony while dressed in his Army uniform.
The fast food chain Burger King has been under the spotlight for its ban on all things beardy for its workers, and allegedly even dismisses the use of beard nets in some cases. One US worker who sported a beard on religious grounds was fired but successfully sued the company some years ago, and more recently, in summer 2019, Burger King employees in Barcelona, Spain won the right to wear beards at work, citing that the ban "undermined the dignity of its workers". This, despite BK’s royal mascot shaving and regrowing facial hair for the men’s health ‘Movember’ charity challenge in 2017. The Catalan Labor Inspection Committee ruled in the employees’ favor against company policy. It seems times are changing for Burger King and many others.
New beard controls that have come into effect in 2019 include the Japan Sumo Association banning facial hair which some wrestlers grow for good luck, citing that it is ‘indecent’ and that they are trying to ‘clean up’ the image of the sport. The Welsh Amateur Boxing Association had its beard ban against British Sikh boxer Aaron Singh removed by the English amateur body, England Boxing, following a campaign from Sikh and Muslim boxers whose faith requires them to keep their beards.
China’s Xinjiang region passed a law to curb religious extremism where the wearing of “abnormal” beards is illegal, without specifying the term ‘abnormal’. It is also illegal to refuse to use state television or radio, and children must receive national education. Meanwhile in Osaka, Japan, subway drivers won their court case against the Municipal Government after they discovered they were given poor performance reviews for ignoring internal regulations against beards.
On the whole, beards appear to becoming more acceptable in the workplace, with companies and employers realizing that it's time to modernize and move forward. Those without strict beard policies are less likely than ever to see awesome beards on their employees as a negative thing. But if you are employed in an industry that still has such a ban in place for no apparent reason (mainly proven health and safety issues) then investigate your rights and make a stand, not just for yourself but for fellow pogonophiles the world over. And if you're worried you'll be judged harshly for rocking your legitimate beard at work, don't!