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Movember - Facial Hair in the Workplace

8th Nov 2013
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The month of November has arrived and with it the worldwide campaign of Movember which raises awareness of men's health through growing moustaches over the month to provide funds for initiatives related to prostate and testicular cancer and men's health.  My own husband is joining in the fun with his workplace which should be quite interesting!  In the eighties many men had moustaches, but these days they can be a rare sight and are certainly not generally "on trend" these days.

Movember began in 2004 in Australia and is now a world-wide event during November.  It encourages men (which the charity refers to as "Mo Bros") to get involved, Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments and reduce the number of preventable deaths. Besides getting an annual check-up, the Movember Foundation encourages men to be aware of any family history of cancer, and to adopt a healthier lifestyle

The Movember website promotes the benefits to employees as including fun and enjoyment in the workplace, mixing with colleagues, providing a sense of achievement, uniting departments and adding to team spirit, For employers Movember provides benefits to them which include employee engagement, adding to staff retention and providing a fun workplace.  There is lots of information on the website about prostate and testicular cancer and men's mental health which appear to be taboo subjects in the male macho world.  However they need to talked about to raise awareness and men need to know what to look out for.  Movember allows promotion to happen in a fun way which may appeal more to the male psyche. 

Movember can be an opportunity for employers to promote men's health and well being in the workplace.  Men are notoriously bad at managing their health.  They are less likely than women to go to their GP particularly regarding delicate and personal problems.  Employers can therefore play a big part in helping to combat men's shyness and reluctance to discuss what they may consider to be embarrassing matters.  However the consequences of ignoring men's health problems can lead to serious illness and even death.  My son's friend, who is only 28, was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and is now undergoing treatment.  Thankfully  in this day and age the condition is 99% treatable so the outcome is good.

Employers' can promote the fun and generate awareness through encouraging competitions - the hairiest, the biggest, the curliest moustache for example and giving a prize to the winner with a donation to the charity. Last year Movember raised £27m for prostate and testicular cancer initiatives which is fantastic news.

Whilst some employers may have policies on facial hair and its prevention, they do need to be fair, reasonable and justified.  In 2000 Disney abandoned its policy of banning moustaches and allowed them provided they were grown in full away from the workplace.  The ban had begun in the 1950s when Disney wanted to be distinguished from fairgrounds and despite Walt Disney himself sporting a moustache.  Then in 2012 Disney allowed beards and goatees in the workplace. McDonalds currently has a policy of requiring staff to be clean shaven for hygiene reasons. They will only allow beards for religious reasons in which case a beard snood must be worn.

Does facial hair put employers off as part of the recruitment process?  Well in the US in 2009 Gillette commissioned a survey of 500 HR professionals to find out.  Apparently those men who are well groomed and clean shaven creates more of a good first impression than a firm handshake.  A principle my son grasped on my advice when he went for an interview last year and secured the job.  Unfortunately the moustache and beard quickly reappeared.  The latest designer look of facial stubble does men no favours and can promote an unkempt, untidy look which may or may not be reflected in their performance.  Many companies will not take the chance at interview.

Research done in the US in 2003 indicated that a having a beard did not harm a man's job prospects.  Whilst Margaret Thatcher did not allow any men with beards when she was prime minister these days there are many celebrity business figures in the UK who sport full facial hair such as Richard Branson and Alan Sugar.  High profile Jeremy Paxman recently took a lot of stick from the media when he returned from holiday having grown a beard.  However the US research showed that having a moustache alone did harm career prospects for men.

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