Ministry says face veil a must for workers in women shops

Veiled female workers work at a factory for pickling olives, dates, jam productions and olive oil in the city of Tabuk in this August 2013 photo. (Reuters/Mohamed Al Hwaity)

Veiled female workers work at a factory for pickling olives, dates, jam productions and olive oil in the city of Tabuk in this August 2013 photo. (Reuters/Mohamed Al Hwaity)

Saleswomen at shops selling women’s items will be obliged to cover their faces, according to new ministry directives.

“Administrations where we work have verbally stated that we should cover our faces and that the head cover will not suffice,” one saleswoman said. “We were also told not to speak with our male colleagues while on duty, according to directives they received from the Ministry of Labor.”

A business owner who confirmed the new directive said that women workers are also not allowed to smoke at break rooms in shopping centers.

Upon investigation, Arab News found that Saudi saleswomen had covered their faces in full at several shopping complexes.

Fahd Al-Takhifi, undersecretary for Planning and Development at the ministry, said the ministry insisted at the very beginning of the feminization process that employees should adhere to the Islamic dress code.

The ministry’s website specified the dress code for women workers, he said. “Female employees should cover up in accordance with Islamic law,” said a clause in the the ministry’s regulations. “The ministry is closely monitoring women’s shops to ensure that the regulations are strictly adhered to,” he said.

He said the ministry planned to include open malls under the feminization regulations. “We intend to implement this plan with the cooperation of the owners of open commercial centers,” he said.

The ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stipulating that shops selling women’s articles should employ only female workers and that only female customers would be served.

This is in addition to the construction of a 169-cm wall separating women’s departments in large shops from other sections.

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