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Friday, 21 June 2013

A Storm in a B Cup ...

Just as I thought I was settling into my job (I have been here for five months now), getting to know everyone and enjoying the routine, along comes yet more challenges to be dealt with. This time at least one of them, to my mind at least is highly personal in nature and could even be construed as sexist. The Managers seem to be having a bit of a crackdown on everybody at the moment, so I know it isn't just me, but knowing this does not help the situation, when you feel as a result of this that you have to walk on eggshells and watch everything you do in case it is misconstrued. This does nothing for staff morale or confidence and actually hinders our ability to do our job.

Tuesday was the warmest day of the year so far, when temperatures in the home I would say reached almost 90 degrees (bear in mind that in a care home environment, a lot of the radiators are not just kept on year round, but physically cannot be switched off) . The sweat was literally running my back, and a few other places as well. So, I went to the staff room and took off my bra. It is not the first time I had done this, and this is not the first workplace where I have done this either. I did it all the time during the summer in my previous job, and I had never had an issue with it at all.

I finished work at my usual time of 3.30pm, having taken my keys back upstairs to the other housekeepers who finish an hour later than myself (different contracts) and left my rubbish bag outside the staff room while I went to get changed. Two of the Managers were stood outside by the chairs talking about something, I did not really take that much notice. I came out of the staffroom probably three minutes later, wearing a blue strappy top and still no bra. In hindsight this may have been a bit revealing, but I did not think it mattered, as all I was doing was walking back to my car via the rubbish bins. Anyway, the two Managers were still outside talking, standing right by the bin bag that I had left, so I apologised as I picked it up and said that I was taking it outside to the bins on my way home. I then went downstairs to reception and signed out. The time on the clock, and the time that I wrote in the book was 15.34.

The following morning, I was hovering the residents lounge when the Head Housekeeper came and found me and informed me that she had been asked by my Line Manager to talk to me about the fact that I had been seen entering the staff room for the second time (they spoke to me about this about two weeks previously as well) to get changed before my official finish time of 3.30pm. I naturally disputed this, and said that I wanted to see the Line Manager in person to talk about this properly. Ten or so minutes later, she came upstairs and the three of us sat down together, in the same lounge. I cannot recall specifics about the conversation other than the fact that she said we were not to enter the staff room before our finish time, and it was also at this time that our keys should be returned. Needless to say I continued to strenuously deny this charge. The conversation became heated on both sides, and voices were raised. She seemed to be saying that it was impossible to hand keys in, go back to the staff room, get changed and down the stairs in the four minutes that I did, and so rising to the challenge of showing them just how ridiculous this all now was, I challenged her to come and time me doing all these things.

I naturally felt extremely angry about this whole affair, and wondered who it was who had passed this information on. I had my suspicions that it was the two Managers who had been outside the staff room, as not only were they both there at the time I went in and came back out, but one of them does have a reputation for this sort of thing (she obviously has nothing better to do). This though is hearsay, and cannot be proven. In the end it probably does not matter who it was, although it would help me to know who I can and cannot trust, as I now suspect everyone.

As if this wasn't bad enough, half an hour after that, the Head Housekeeper came upstairs again, and told me that I was wanted (again), this time in the so-called Quiet Room. So, I put my cleaning trolley away and went there (via the toilet) to see what it was all about. The same Line Manager was sitting there waiting for me, with as is customary in this meetings, the Head Housekeeper as note taker.

The Line Manager then proceeded to tell me that it is company policy that staff have to wear a bra while at work. My eyes rolled back in my head, as I tried to think about who could possibly have known. I do not exactly shout about the fact that I do this after all (I have mentioned it to the other housekeepers and  the Activities Organiser but no one else that I can recall), and you certainly wouldn't be able to tell under the uniform that I wear; a size too big polo shirt that closely resembles a tent. I can only imagine that those same Managers saw me leaving the staff room without one, and put two and two together and complained, but again this is hearsay and I do not know for sure. I must admit though that it is suspicious. I think to be honest, the Line Manager was more embarrassed about this than I was. If it hadn't have been so serious, I would have found it funny.

The long and short of it is though that I reluctantly went and put my bra on, and spent the rest of the day (which was hotter still) sweating like that something that resembled a pig and feeling so hot as a result that I really felt at one point that I was going to pass out. The rest of the staff all said the same thing, so again, I know that this isn't me. They also gave me a copy of the dress guidelines which the more I studied it, makes no mention about wearing a bra, only that clothes must not be "revealing". It then mentions specific examples of mini skirts, tops that show midriffs, and strappy tops (my "who was outside the staff room and could have seen me radar" went off when I read that bit). It also crucially said that underwear "must not be visible", but how do they know you are wearing any if they can't see it !

The more I thought about this, the more unfair I think it is, To be honest, I think it is a diabolical liberty. It left me wondering what they going to do next, and whether they will start checking our knickers (I actually said this as well, and they wrote it down !). Knickers to them I would say, but sadly I have to work here and for the moment at least, until I can check certain things, do as they say. I also though feel that this is sexist and discriminating against women, as plenty of men have boobs (moobs) and I am pretty sure they wouldn't be told to wear a bra. It is not as if you can even see anything at least no more than you can when I do wear a bra, so I really cannot see that they have a leg to stand on. This morning then, being my day off, as soon as Head Office opens at 9am I plan to telephone the Personnel Department and have it out with them, We will see what they have to say about this whole sorry affair.

As for the timekeeping, after four attempts that spanned an hour, I finally got to see the Home Manager, with whom I had a fruitless 20 minute discussion that went round and round in circles. It finished with her refusing to make a decision, even though she said she could see where I am coming from, with her basically placing the responsibility back on us housekeepers whereby we had to get together with our own Line Manager and work out our own procedures for what she termed "leaving the building". I have never heard such rubbish in my life. That though has now been done, and nothing has changed from what I have doing already, underlining just how petty and pointless this whole thing was.

The problem is that all the clocks in the house say different things, and all of them are different to the BBC on my car radio - the BBC don't lie ! I have though been told that I have to synchronise my watch to the one in reception (which one, as there are two which both say different things) and go by that. I pointed out though that I work upstairs, so at the end of each day, in case my watch loses time, and to prevent being unfairly accused again, I would effectively have to go downstairs to check the time before going back upstairs to get my keys, and then go back upstairs again to get changed. Quite apart from the absurdity of this situation, by the time I have done all of this, they would be owing me overtime! None of this though made a difference and despite my assertions to the contrary, backed up by at least one other member of staff, they maintain that this clock is right, and what they say goes.

Coran suggested that I go out and buy a peephole bra that tells the time as the Managers walk past, perhaps even in different languages, but of course I jest. As for the timekeeping, I fear that there is no solution to that one, except perhaps to change the clock when no one is there. I guess though I will have to speak to Head Office an hour from now and have it out with them.

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