Is this the strictest employee preparation guide in the country?
One of New Zealand’s leading car rental chains has an employee dress code that critics call “bizarre and invasive”. So what’s in it?
When you go to pick up a rental car, the last thing on your mind is probably your appearance. You are probably stressed. You are probably late. You probably just got off a flight, which means you probably seem closer to death than ever. But just across the counter, employees at your local Hertz are being asked to follow a strict employee readiness guide that union reps have criticized as “throwback to the 1950s.
The 12-page document, seen by The Spinoff, is “designed to help employees and provide a consistent point of reference to ensure everyone looks the part and represents our brand with pride.” The guide begins with the following message: “we provide an exceptional customer experience to all our customers and it is important that we all look exceptional while doing this”, before asking all employees, regardless of their role or their location, to stick to the following guidelines.
The guide is divided into 23 chapters, including makeup, hairstyle, tattoos, and jewelry. Things start with personal hygiene. “Use of deodorant, perfume and cologne is encouraged,” the guide reads. “Team members should be mindful of their working conditions and ensure they are aware of sweat odors.” I immediately think of going to work every day in the scorching sun, blowing both my armpits, and having to constantly moisturize with putrid rose hand cream to cover up the stench.
I wouldn’t last a day at Hertz, but neither would people like Jack Tame on TV.
When it comes to Hertz hairstyles, the grooming guide contains many strict rules that would immediately exclude many musical icons from the job. Hair should always be combed neatly away from the face and never above the top of the collar unless tied back. Need a hair tie? It MUST be in the neutral tone of your hair color and not just that bright dusty pink you found in your glove compartment.
Finally, if you find yourself working at Hertz with “quiffs or spikes”, they should NOT exceed five centimeters and you must NOT show up with “overly slicked back” hair, a mohawk or dreadlocks. Sorry Elvis, Travis and Bob. “At best, it’s odd and invasive to expect these prescribed rules,” says Ben Peterson, FIRST Union National Retail Organizer. “At worst, it’s religiously, racially or culturally discriminatory.” Contacted by The Spinoff, Hertz dismissed “unfounded accusations of racism”.
In another hilarious disclaimer, Hertz acknowledges that employees MAY want to shave their heads or dye their hair for “charitable reasons.” In these cases, there is only one person to talk to:
Hairstyle rules don’t stop at the top of your head either – you should always be clean shaven unless you sport a mustache trimmed above the lip or have a regularly trimmed beard. Fluro hair coloring is not permitted, with the guide recommending “blonde, black, red, white, gray and brown” hair colors.
As for makeup, it should be “natural-looking” at Hertz. “Glitter, glitter, frost, metallic, heavy or overdone makeup is not allowed” – this is the Euphoria cast shot – and “foundation should match your natural skin tone” and be “well blended” in the skin – it’s me shot, again. Eyelash extensions may be allowed, provided they “look natural” and “are well maintained”. Your nails should NEVER exceed 1.5 centimeters, sorry for that fired man.
“All of this lacks respect and dignity and speaks volumes about the absurd work environment they seek to create,” says Peterson of FIRST Union. The preference for tattoos is that they remain covered, but the visible ink must be “professional” and cannot exceed more than 30% of the skin. Piercings are stricter than a private school for girls – no more than two earrings and hoops no larger than 1cm in diameter.
As for facial piercings, they must be CLEAR. You know I can’t catch your ghost piercings, Travis.
The last big chapter of the guide focuses on jewelry, which should be kept very simple at all times. No shiny watch straps are allowed, rings cannot be simple gold or silver rings, only embellished with “modest gemstones or precious stones” and limited to three per hand. You can only wear one plain bracelet on each wrist and the necklaces must remain under your shirt. If you have belt loops, you better wear a belt.
Compared to the strictest high school dress codes, Peterson says the Hertz guide seems like it’s from another era. “It reads like a throwback to the 1950s and contains racist and ridiculously intrusive standards that have no place in the modern world.” Although companies often don’t enforce these sorts of regulations in practice, he says “they can always be dusted off and used as justification to bully ‘problematic’ employees at a later date.”
Contacted by The Spinoff, Damien Shaw, managing director of Hertz Australia and New Zealand, said Hertz is currently discussing with employees the expectations set out in the grooming guide. “The guide is designed to help employees and provide a point of reference to ensure everyone looks the part and represents the brand with pride,” he says. “It wants to be inclusive, egalitarian and diverse.”
Although the guide makes no specific reference to race or cultural background, Shaw says Hertz “has worked to include these considerations in the guide to ensure diversity is recognized and respected.” The grooming guide, the latest edition published in January 2022, is currently being revised within the company. “Hertz strives to ensure that staff are comfortable with these instructions, so the grooming guide is currently under review and staff feedback will be taken into account.”