Will they allow their employees to wear the burqa or niqab next?
Westpac has called in fashion queen Carla Zampatti to design a corporate hijab as the bank joins a growing trend to expand workwear to accommodate Muslim headgear.
The Zampatti design is expected to be incorporated into the new uniform collection next April. Westpac joins other major corporates, including the Commonwealth Bank and Optus, in including the hijab in staff uniforms.
London’s Metropolitan Police Force last week introduced the headscarf as part of its official uniform in a bid to create a more diverse force and to encourage women from Muslim communities to join its ranks.
Westpac’s hijab will include the bank’s logo and is part of a push to ensure diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.
“As part of our new corporate wardrobe, we’ve designed a navy-blue hijab with a charcoal Westpac ‘W’ logo which blends beautifully with the broader uniform,” a Westpac spokeswoman said. “This is another way we can show our support for our people and ensure they feel great at work.’’
There is little presence of own-brand or stylised hijabs in the public sector.
The Australian Federal Police and state police forces do not have custom hijabs for Muslim officers.
A spokeswoman for the AFP said governance allowed for uniformed members to request to wear a religious headdress on a case-by-case basis.
While NSW Police Force had a similar requirement, Victoria Police said it provided headdress items in corporate colours to its employees, including the Jewish yarmulke and Sikh turban.
The turban is accompanied by the police badge and chequered band.
Connie Wehbe, who works at Westpac’s Bankstown branch in Sydney, welcomed the inclusion of a stylised hijab.
“I enjoy wearing a hijab to work as it helps others understand my culture and get to know me better,” she said.
“The new branded hijabs will show Westpac recognises and accepts different cultures and I’m looking forward to wearing it as part of my uniform.”
Tarik Houchar, the owner of Australian company and leading international brand Hijab House, applauded Westpac for taking “the step to include the hijab in their uniform, considering hijabs in most company uniforms are usually dishevelled and mismatched”.
“There may be some backlash, but people must understand that the hijab is just a simple piece of cloth, and it shouldn’t be feared or misinterpreted. Westpac just wants its teams to look more cohesive,” he said.