One Question Quiz
Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

SocietyFebruary 28, 2022

Is this the strictest employee grooming guide in the country? 

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

One of New Zealand’s leading car rental chains has an employee dress code that critics are calling ‘weird and invasive’. So what’s in it? 

When you go to pick up a rental car, the last thing you are probably thinking about is your appearance. You are probably stressed. You are probably late. You have probably just got off a flight, which means you probably look closer to death than ever. But just across the other side of the counter, employees at your local Hertz are being asked to adhere to a strict employee grooming guide that union representatives have criticised as “a 1950s throwback”.

The 12-page document, seen by The Spinoff, is “designed to assist employees and provide a consistent reference point to ensure everyone looks the part and represents our brand with pride”. The guide begins with the message that “we provide an exceptional customer experience to all our customers and it’s important we all look exceptional whilst doing this”, before asking that all employees, no matter their role or location, stick to the guidelines that follow. 

The guide is divided into a whopping 23 chapters, including makeup, hairstyle, tattoos and jewellery. Things kick off with personal hygiene. “The use of deodorant, perfume and cologne is encouraged,” the guide reads. “Team members should be mindful of their working conditions and ensure they are mindful of perspiration odours.” I immediately think about walking to work everyday in the blazing sun, blowing out both my pits, and having to endlessly moisturise my hands with putrid rose-flavoured hand cream to cover the stench. 

I wouldn’t last a day at Hertz, but then neither would the likes of television’s Jack Tame. 

When it comes to Hertz hairstyles, the grooming guide has a lot of strict rules that would immediately exclude a lot of musical icons from employment. Hair should always be styled neatly, away from the face, and never exceeding the top of the collar unless it is tied back. In need of a hair tie? It MUST be in the neutral tone of your hair colour and not just that dusty pink sparkly one you found in your glovebox. 

Finally, if you find yourself working at Hertz with “quiffs or spikes” they must NOT exceed five centimetres and you must NOT show up with “excessively slicked” hair, a mohawk, or dreadlocks. Sorry Elvis, Travis and Bob. “At best, it’s weird and invasive to expect these prescribed rules,” says Ben Peterson, FIRST Union National Retail Organiser. “At worst it is religiously, racially or culturally discriminatory.” When contacted by The Spinoff, Hertz rejected “unfounded accusations of racism”.

In another hilarious caveat, Hertz acknowledges that employees MAY want to shave their head or dye their hair for “charity reasons”. In these instances, there’s only one person to talk to: 

The hair rules don’t stop at the top of the head either – you must always be clean shaven unless you sport a moustache trimmed above the lip, or have a regularly trimmed beard. Fluro hair colouring is not allowed, with the guide recommending “blonde, black, red, white, grey, and brown” hair colours.

As for makeup, it must be “of natural appearance” at Hertz. “Sparkly, glittery, frosted, metallic, heavy, or exaggerated makeup is not permitted” – that’s the cast of Euphoria fired – and “foundation must match your natural shade” and be “well-blended” into the skin – that’s me fired, again. You may be permitted eyelash extensions, as long as they “have a natural look” and “are well maintained”. Your nails must NEVER exceed 1.5 centimetres, sorry to this fired man

“The whole thing lacks respect and dignity and speaks volumes about the absurd workplace environment they’re seeking to create,” says Peterson from FIRST Union. The preference for tattoos is that they remain covered, but visible ink must be “professional” and cannot exceed more than 30% of the skin. Piercings are stricter than a private girls school – no more than two earrings, and hoops no larger than 1cm in diameter. 

As for face piercings, they must be CLEAR. You know I can’t grab your ghost piercings, Travis. 

The last major chapter in the guide is based around jewellery, which must be kept very simple at all times. No bright watch straps are allowed, rings may only be simple bands in gold or silver, only embellished with “modest gemstones or precious stones” and only limited to three per hand. You may only wear one plain bracelet on each wrist, and necklaces must stay beneath your shirt. If you’ve got belt loops, you best be wearing a belt. 

Compared to even the strictest high school dress codes, Peterson says the Hertz guide appears to be of another time. “It reads like a 1950s throwback and contains racist and ridiculously intrusive standards that have no place in the modern world.” Although companies will often not enforce these sorts of regulations in practice, he says “they can still be dusted off and used as a justification to bully ‘problem’ employees at later date.”

When contacted by The Spinoff, Damien Shaw, general manager of Hertz Australia and New Zealand, said Hertz is currently in discussions with employees around the expectations set out in the grooming guide. “The guide is designed to assist employees and provide a reference point to ensure everyone looks the part and represents the brand with pride,” he says. “It is intended to be inclusive, gender equal and diverse.”

Although the guide makes no specific reference to race or cultural background, Shaw says that Hertz “has endeavoured to include these considerations in the guide to ensure diversity is recognised and respected.” The grooming guide, last edition issued in January 2022, is currently under review within the company. “Hertz strives to ensure staff are comfortable with these directions which is why the Grooming Guide is currently being reviewed and staff feedback will be considered.”

Keep going!