No carry on please Matron: HSE proposes new dress code.

By Karen | October 11 2012 | 39 Comments

TAKE heart readers. The next time you or a relative are stuck on a hospital trolley or have to wait months on end for an out-patients appointment you can be assured the HSE has the real issue of the day under control.

While you’re waiting on said trolley or in said corridor, your eyes won’t be offended by the sight of a female employee’s bosoms. Or by the sight of her nail polish. Or her tight sweater.


In a ten page draft dress-code document issued to staff in the Mid-West the HSE is proposing to discipline and even dismiss female employees who do not abide by the dress-code and who wear things like:

  • Halter-neck tops
  • Skin tight clothing
  • Mini-skirts
  • Garments which reveal excess cleavage or a bare midriff.

What’s excess cleavage I wonder – is it measured in inches? Do you get more inches if you’re a B cup as opposed to a D cup? Will somebody be coming around with a ruler?

The HSE also wants to ban artificial nails, nail jewellery and even the humble nail polish. Whatever about boobs in the workplace, surely a simple file and paint couldn’t be seen as offensive to anybody?

I get that it might not be appropriate for a nurse or doctor taking part in a complicated surgery to be wearing false nails or nail jewels which could contaminate a sterile area or compromise her work – but surely Mary from Accounts’ gel nails don’t stop her doing her job?

It’s interesting to note that the dress code doesn’t seem to apply much to men – will they be allowed to wear sleeveless tank tops to show off their guns? How about fake tan or male piercings? If Tallafornia taught us nothing else, it taught us that men can flash as much flesh as the ladies.

Hospital staff unions have given their response to the HSE – they consider this over the top at a time of such cutbacks in the health service – and are awaiting a reply before anything is agreed or set in stone.

What do you think – over the top, or a sensible measure?

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39 Replies to "No carry on please Matron: HSE proposes new dress code."

  • As long as they’re doing their job properly, I couldn’t care less if they were wearing a full latex suit.
    I thought the HSE had enough on their plate with healthcare issues, obviously they’d rather tackle the oh so important issue of lipstick. Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is what is going to fix our failing healthcare system.

  • KellBell says:

    I think the HSE needs a ‘Stupidity Code’ – starting at the top where that seems to effect the most staff. So sick of idiots running our health system.

  • RiRi says:

    Every office I have worked in has always had a dress code for males and females, I don’t see there’s anything wrong with HSE proposing it.

  • Can I also add now something I left out of my piece – poor Aisling is DEMENTED editing my long rambling posts into something readable – that I have spent a LOT of time in St James’s Hospital in Dublin because of a long-term chronic illness. I can hand on heart say that not once have I noticed inappropriate work wear on any of the staff there. Most of the nurses and aides are in uniform, the doctors are in scrubs, the receptionists are in trousers and a blouse or a skirt and a blouse. Sure they wear make-up and jewellery but I’ve never noticed anything untoward.

    What I did notice is the excellent standard of care I received, all on the public system. That’s not said a lot because unfortunately many of our hospitals aren’t performing well and staff are under huge pressure and systems break down. But personally, I can’t fault the care and the attention I received. From nurses who washed me with dignity and kindness when I was so weak I couldn’t lift my head to the receptionists who juggled appointments for me so I could get in to see a doctor when I was most ill, to phlebotomists who held my hand and murmered soothing words when yet another of my veins burst and became obsolete.

    The last thing, the LAST thing, I noticed when these people were caring for me, was their nail polish.

  • Scarie says:

    I think it is dependent on the profession. In my job ( allied health professional) can’t wear low cut tops, just not appropriate with my client group. I spend a lot of my time
    Crawling round the floor with 2 year olds so short skirts and bare midriffs are out.In my building all the clerical staff have some public contact, dressing professionally is important. As for men, well in my building it’s 20 women to one man so maybe focusing on the largest employee group! Butl I do
    Think there are far more
    Things to be worrying about than dress code and the hours it took some She manager to come
    Up with it!!!

  • thefrog says:

    I’ve never experienced Irish hospitals, but are there really people dressed in mini-skirts, low-cut tops and the like? For a start, these clothes would be very unpractical at work, so I can’t imagine people wearing them…

    Doctors and nurses have uniforms, and as you point out, hygiene rules mean that they are not going to have nail polish / fake nails.
    Administrative staff, if they are in contact with customers, ok there is a justification for a dress code, but otherwise…

    Besides, my issue with dress codes like this (and the UBS one that came out a few months ago) is that they assumed people are immature, not allowed to make their own decision about the image they project.

    We don’t have a dress code at work, but the unwritten rule is: whatever you want in the office,but be smart when meeting outsiders.
    For me, that’s just sensible.

  • mcDreamy says:

    Grrr in a time when the country is in an ecomonic crisis and the Health Service is on its knees, all I want to know is how much money was spent on drafting this ten page document, and how many pen-pushers use this type of work to justify their jobs in the HSE at a time when front-line staff such as nurses, doctors, care attendants and paramedics are being cut? Sorry, rant over *scuttles off to find her whale music CD and yoga mat*

  • mcDreamy says:


  • For me it’s the OTT nature of it that bothers me. Don’t wear a bra top while examining sick patients, ok, I get that. But a young one answering phones in the x-ray department, fully clothed, but with pink nail varnish on could be DISCIPLINED? NO, totally OTT in my opinion,

  • Thefrog, I can only comment on the MidWestern Regional Hospital, and the only people I have seen dressed inappriopriately where visitors, and none of the staff.
    We have the same policy as your office here, and it actually works fine.
    It is grown ups we are talking about, they are able to figure out what is appropriate to wear when working in a hospital and what isn’t.

  • Scarie says:

    Oops meant HSE manager not she manager!

  • witchgirl26 says:

    My mam was a nurse & I get the “no nail nailvarnish/no jewellery” rules that were in place for the clinical staff. However I don’t understand how they could legally enforce this for clerical staff. There’s no justification for it unless the nail art/varnish/fake nails are somehow discriminatory towards a group etc.
    As for the clothes – well every company I’ve ever worked in has had a dress code but for the most part they’re a few lines of “Dress appropriately for the role in which you fill” and if you don’t, your boss has a word about appropriate dressing. Most people though have some cop on!
    Karen – I agree that it’s less the policy and more the OTT nature of it that’s annoying. And that someone was probably paid bucket loads to come up with this codswallop.

  • alchemystee says:

    I spent a lot of time visiting my brother in hospitals a few years back when he was ill. I never once noticed a problem with unprofessionally dressed (extremely hard-working) members of staff.

    I think this is a non-issue.

    Someone, somewhere, is trying to justify their job in the HSE. Good to know who our tax yoyos are being spent on instead of frontline workers. :(

  • Niamh says:

    I work in the public service and this is the same dress code that we have in my place of work. It was part of the contract I signed when I started 8 years ago.

    The only thing about it I find weird is the timing, have the HSE not had a dress code up to this point? I think (hope) the talk about disciplinary action is just part of the official policy that has to be included and isn’t something that they will enforce Saudi Arabia style.

  • That’s really interesting Niamh, tell us more about that. Is the thing about the nail polish in there? Does your manager (you, if you’re the manager) enforce that? What was the rationale behind it do you know? Have to say I’ve heard of dress codes of course but really can’t get over the nail polish thing for admin staff!

    This is a new dress code apparently and the unions say that there has been a couple of minor incidents with one or two people regarding appropriate work wear but instead of a manger speaking to those two people, they’re going to implement this entire ten page document for everyone.

    Also, enforcement Saudia Arabia style, that’s EXACTLY how I’ve been imagining it!! Sirens going off and AK 47s and the army storming the building because someone put a coat of pearly pink on their nails!

  • *Aisling* says:

    I too have spent a lot of time in various hospitals unforch – from Blanch to James’s, the Mater, Bon Securs and the rest and I have NEVER once seen a staff member dressed “inappropriately”. In A&E they’re mostly in scrubs, and on the wards they’re in their uniforms.
    This announcement baffled me

  • boo says:

    Have this dress code in place in the hospital I work in for last two years.nail Polish is a hygiene issue for clinical frontline staff and seeing as we haven’t seen the document we are all assuming that it includes admin staff. I don’t have any issue with the memo. As someone else said the disciplinary section is std hse jargon. This whole article is typical government tactics to deflect from real news.the fact that hse head honchos refused to reveal level of overspend to public accounts commission and did so with James reillys blessing.

  • Sarah says:

    I think its more for the office staff.
    Like dress for where you work.
    It must be new staff members or a very select few that work behind the scenes.

  • CeeCee says:

    I’m a nurse and have worked in several Irish hospitals at this stage and as others have said, Nurses, Doctors and clerical staff have always dressed appropriately (in my opinion). This is just classic HSE- rather than actually use funds efficiently, we get this sort of policy release instead (a dress code has always been in place so I’m confused as to why they felt the need to write a new 10 page one), which really is just undermining staff’s professionalism. Maybe they should start spending that money on hiring more junior Drs so that the ones we have don’t have to work 80 hour weeks or hire more nurses so that patients get better care. Grr.

  • CeeCee says:

    Although I should point out that the HSE puts “disciplinary action” on pretty much every document they’ve ever written so this isn’t hugely surprising. Sorry for earlier rant! :-)

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