WORKFORCE: A hospital trust has warned staff against wearing clothes that expose their “midriff” or “excessive cleavage”.

East and North Hertfordshire Trust has issued a new uniform policy for all staff, with guidance on shoes, clothing, hair length and colour.

Any member of staff who does not adhere to the policy could be subject to disciplinary action.

The policy states: “The trust expects staff to project a positive and professional image at all times, and whilst the right to freedom of expression is respected, staff wearing their own clothing must dress smartly, professionally and appropriately.

“Staff will not dress in ways that undermine the spirit of this policy, and clothing that exposes the midriff, torso or excessive cleavage. Denim, shorts, leggings and mini skirts are not acceptable attire.”

The document states that hair must be clean and neat and, if dyed, “should be of a natural colour which portrays a subtle, professional image”.

All staff in uniform and working in clinical areas must wear their hair “off the collar and tied away from the face”.

It adds: “Ponytails and plaits should be tied back and also worn off the collar. Hair slides should be of a neutral colour and of a professional appearance.

“Hair ribbons, combs or sharp decorative slides should not be worn.”

Beards and moustaches must be “clean and neatly trimmed” and any offensive tattoos covered up.

Hannah Middleton, Unison branch secretary for the trust, said the policy was agreed by trade unions and staff councils following complaints from patients.

She said: “We needed a policy that covered all staff whether they were in the clinical side or non-uniform staff.

“There had been complaints from patients about members of staff baring their midriff, and problems with health and safety as some had been wearing sandals.

“There has always been a policy but it has now been toughened up.”

The trust has also warned staff it will carry out “audits” of the uniform policy in every ward, department and service area.

A statement from the trust said: “The trust has had a uniform/dress code policy for many years.

“In March 2011, the latest updated policy - which was approved by the trust’s management in conjunction with staff-side colleagues - was rolled out across the trust’s four hospitals.

“As has been the case for some time, the dress code’s aim is to establish a professional and consistent image that reflects the trust’s values.

“For many groups of staff, for example nurses, midwives, radiographers and pharmacists, this is achieved through wearing a uniform.

“For non-uniformed staff, however, it is important they too dress in a way that is both practical and professional in appearance.”

The statement said the policy had existed in some form for years and “has not been adopted because of concerns raised by patients and/or members of the public”.