27 July 2021

Home Affairs again told it must consult staff on contentious dress code

| Ian Bushnell
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Woman in sleeveless top

The CPSU believes Home Affairs’ dress code is aimed at women. Photo: File.

The Home Affairs Department has had its bid to introduce a contentious new dress code for staff without consulting them knocked back for a second time by the Fair Work Commission.

Home Affairs first tried to implement the new dress code which bans sleeveless attire and jeans back in February, but it was thwarted by the Community and Public Sector Union, which took the matter to the Commission, arguing that the Department had to consult first with staff.

In an April ruling, the Commission agreed, but last week Home Affairs tried to appeal the decision, only to be told that having to give two weeks’ notice of a new policy so staff can comment was not onerous.

The dress rules, which even cover employees in home offices when they are on video calls, may still be introduced but only after the department talks with the union and staff.

But the CPSU believes the dress rules are aimed at women, who make up 54 per cent of staff.

The rules provide a list of suitable and unsuitable attire. In the unsuitable column are sleeveless tops, dresses and blouses; activewear such as tracksuits, T-shirts, polo shirts, tank tops and shorts; and joggers and sneakers.

“The appearance of both our uniformed and non-uniformed officers is the first impression of the department and forms a lasting impression on the public,” the dress code says.

“Staff working from home should display a neat and tidy appearance. If required to attend a meeting in person or virtually with external parties, the business professional attire standard applies.”

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CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said CPSU members welcome the Commission upholding the right of workers to be consulted on policies that will affect their day-to-day working life.

She said the wording of new uniform rules had clear gendered implications and targeted women.

“It is disappointing that Home Affairs can not see the strength and experience its workforce could bring to policies and standards through consultation,” Ms Donnely said.

“CPSU members are on the front line of immigration, border and national security every day, their experience can only make policies strong.”

The union had said that Home Affairs had staff all over the country, including in places like Darwin and Townsville, where they might not have air conditioning at home.

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These types of clothing decrees are silly but the idea that this is gendered is ridiculous.

Unless they are admitting that the current situation is also gendered in that the appropriate attire for men in an office is far more limited than it is for women.

So naturally any form of new restrictions will affect women more.

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