Dress Codes in Local Government

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2016 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2016

Conference notes that many employers covered by our local government service group have dress codes for some groups of workers. Many of these date back to a time when there was little overlap between what was considered male and female clothing and have not been re-examined since.

Conference acknowledges that dress codes and uniforms can serve a legitimate purpose in local government, such as maintaining a desired image with service users or clients or aiding staff visibility. Examples within the local government service group may include maintenance, gardening, refuse and cleaning staff, home care workers, leisure centre and reception staff and fire service staff. However, conference believes these objectives can be achieved without the need for gender-specific dress requirements. Societal norms, that certain items of clothing be restricted to only one gender, have been used for too long to entrench conceptions of gender which have no place in a modern, progressive society.

Conference notes that all workers are affected by these policies. Many workers do not wish to dress in accordance with gendered stereotypes of what is ‘appropriate dress’. Some may find it difficult or impossible to follow a gendered dress code and be true to their own identity. This includes non-binary workers – workers who do not identify as solely male or female. But gendered dress codes can present particular difficulties to those who are starting or considering gender transition. The extreme anxiety which often occurs around expressing your gender in a new way is compounded by the fear of being disciplined by management.

Conference notes that this does necessarily mean that all local government workers within a uniformed work group must wear exactly the same uniform. However, staff should be able to choose from what have been historically defined as the ‘male’ or ‘female’ items without the need to explain why, in the same manner that a change in size is requested. This would have benefits for many workers, including those going through a process of gender transition and those who have a gender expression that does not fit binary assumptions or stereotypes.

Conference calls on the local government service group executive to:

1)Seek examples from branches of existing dress codes and uniform policies from across the range of local government employers;

2)Work with the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender committee and the national women’s committee to draw up a model policy and best practice guide for local government;

3)Urge our negotiators to seek to amend and update policies in line with best practice.