Should Sexy Attire Be Banned From The Workplace?

The Australian Taxation Office has reportedly initiated a crack down on skimpy business skirts, with employees sent home for wearing "revealing" or "immodest" outfits. Do you think it's acceptable to force women to follow a modest dress code? Or should we all have the right to be professional and sexy? Discuss.

Business woman picture from Shutterstock

Australia's female tax office staff have been warned to stop dressing too sexily for their jobs, according to a Fairfax Media report. The new directive has apparently come right from the top, with ATO boss Chris Jordan personally sending officials home for baring too much flesh.

"There are examples of service delivery employees dressing too casually or immodestly, therefore impacting on the perceptions of the professionalism of the ATO," warned an email sent to taxation service delivery staff.

"Our professionalism is displayed through our values and code of conduct, but also through our appearance and dress."

The email went on to list "revealing attire" as an example of clothing that is considered to be too casual and therefore inappropriate for the ATO workplace.

While there is a strong case to be made for maintaining dress codes within a professional setting, phrases like "immodest" and "revealing" are entirely subjective. They are also potentially discriminatory towards certain body types: an identical blouse could look immodest on one employee and conservative on another, depending on their height and bust size.

We're keen to hear what our readers think. Do you think public servants should be required to dress modestly? Or should female professionals have the right to wear whatever they choose (within reason)? Cast your vote in the below poll and share your opinion in the comments.

[Via SMH]


    I'm assuming a bureaucracy the size of the ATO already has guidelines for professional attire. Which means by definition these women are currently dressing appropriately. The question is now "Should we employ someone to judge employee's daily sexiness with a view to punishment". No. No we shouldn't. Not even the ATO should be that insane.

    Discrimination because they are asking people to dress conservatively and professionally? Really? When did the world turn to such sh*t that a professional organisation gets grief for asking staff to dress appropriately.
    Women should have to wear standardised clothing, the same way men do, without kicking up a stink. Chances are if the ATO said nothing, the frumpy chicks would kick up a stink, but because they said something, it discriminates against those with good bodies?

    EDIT: Even the article ask "should female professionals have the right to wear whatever they choose (within reason)?" Why the hell should they get to wear what they want within? For men, it's business formal. Don't like it? See you in an HR meeting, wear a suit. Take it a step further? See you in court. Don't forget to wear a suit.

    Last edited 05/05/14 5:13 pm

      The issue isn't with conservative dress codes but with the ATO's vague wording. What constitutes “revealing attire”? As I said, an identical outfit could look "too revealing" on one body type and perfectly appropriate on another. This is what I meant by potential discrimination.

        There in lies your answer though. Don't be to revealing for your body type. That's not discrimination, that's common sense. The only other way to not descriminate is a burlap sack mandated for all employees in size xxxl.

          But again, what constitutes "revealing"? Take the woman in the above stock photo -- I'm guessing her outfit probably wouldn't fly at the ATO but it's not actually that revealing. A less busty woman in the same outfit probably wouldn't raise any eyebrows.

            Revealing is skin tight/low cut regardless of bust or body size. Just because what it's revealing isn't considered as attractive, doesn't make it any less revealing.

            EDIT: Guy in lycra, regardless of how much is bulging, is considered revealing.

            Last edited 05/05/14 5:22 pm

              So if a man with say, a muscular physique, wore a tight shirt; would that be considered revealing, and thus inappropriate?

                In order to remain consistent, yes it would. I don't see why people need to try be so 'clever' instead of just applying common sense and accepting that an organisation is allowed a dress code. I'm certain that the majority of people know what is appropriate and what is not. Some people just like to be argumentative and put forward hypotheticals.

                  I just think we need reasons better than 'common sense' After all, what is common sense changes over time. While today we question what women wear in the workplace, years ago they questioned whether women should be in there at all. Likewise the dress code itself should not be beyond suspicion.

            If the woman in the photo was seated normally (i.e. not purposefully pushing her chest out), I think what' she's wearing would be perfectly fine for a professional environment. The photo was just obviously posed to accentuate her sexiness. Though to be fair, she'd probably be pretty sexy no matter what she wore, but what do you want her to do, dress in the aforementioned burlap sack?

              Agreed, there is one woman at my work who looks "sexy" in no matter what she wears, where there are others who even if they tried, couldn't do sexy. How do you define and police it?

        The ATO doesn't have to spell it out to their staff, if they don't have the common sense to figure it out or respect for the rules, then they shouldn't be working in an close environment with 80-200 people. They should go work in theatre or in a pub.

        It is because everyone is working in a closed environment, (which historically ends badly for humans without some management) that these rules are in place.
        The problem isn't the ATO. It's the idiots who feel the rules don't apply to them.

        Here's another example such an idiot, who thinks they're special:

    Well that's not exactly what this is about. It's not about judging it's about professionalism. I've seen more than a few "business" women look like they were heading to the cross rather than to work. Women already have the advantage when it comes to business attire (wider range of clothing options) I think the idea is to make the ones who are dressing inappropriately understand what is expected of them.

    See, the thing is that the main reason for women to be told to cover up (in my experience) is because MEN find it distracting... but that MEN find something a women is doing/wearing distracting has nothing to do with the WOMEN. So it's just patriarchal control on a sub level...

      Keep waving your feminist flag. It's especially compelling behind a guest username. Once upon a time men got in trouble for having staff dress that way, now they get in trouble for asking them not to. Those damn men.

      And your compelling point was solely that if men find it distracting, they are not allowed to politely object ?
      Using your argument, if we change women are 'dressing sexily' to 'singing Waltzing Matilda all day', and men objected, it's still an oppression of womens freedoms and control of them ?
      Starting to see how silly your argument is now ?

      It has nothing to do with control, the staff are simply being asked to dress professionally - this applies for both men and women. This is not a new thing and will be in the corporate handbook already.
      It just happens there tends not to be a lot of sexy, revealing business attire for men, and this is an important thing to note - if some men did, they wouldn't be taken seriously be other men, and probably by a fair amount of women too.

      All of the successful businesswomen I have seen, bar none, have dressed professionally. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say it because they were mature enough to recognise that by dressing like their counterparts, they will be taken more seriously. Seemingly, it appears to be part of a winning formula for them.
      Have yet to see any C level businesswoman dress like she is trying to catch a man.

      30 years ago
      "I'd like you wear this, sugar buns.."
      "You pig ! How dare you objectify me !"

      The present day
      "We need you to dress in a more appropriate and professional manner please"
      "How dare you ! I have a right to dress in a manner that objectifies me !"

      Thankfully, most business women dress in a manner that befits the professional work they do, but they seem to be overshadowed by the idiotic, but very verbal minority.

        You Sir, are now my favourite person on here!

      It's called being professional. Don't like it, then please kindly remove yourself from society.

    Good move.

    it would be absurd if I pitched to work in a tight fitting shirt and butt hugging shorts, even if I shaved my hairy legs. it's just an inappropriate for women, only bad corporate culture has made it commonplace.

    Absolutely. Prudish formality and "proper" dress needs to be left in the 1800s where it belongs.

    whatever as long as they're not fat

    I'm fine with it... But I think the woman concerned forfeits all rights to getting upset about any unwanted (but reasonable) attention or ogling if she does....

    Not that I have any issue...

    But if there is a dress code, it invariably means men have to wear a corporate uniform of long trousers, shoes and a collared shirt, and possibly a tie and jacket

    That's it, almost no deviation - women on the other hand, can essentially wear anything

    Sexiness or 'immodesty' is a subjective term, a lot of it based on the fit and the actual person's body, but if a man cannot open his shirt halfway down his chest or wear short shorts, then neither should women

    When I wear a suit it's considered sexy, and that's professional attire!
    It wouldn't be fair to only let the men dress sexy now, would it?

      That's just females going goo-goo over a 'uniform'. And also because you're probably naturally sexy.

    I recall the furore when the NSW Department of Education said teachers have to dress appropriately, which for men meant collared shirts and for women meant no revealing sexiness.
    So the difference here is... ? Young people aren't allowed to see sexiness so neither can adults? Or are these two different things?

    To be honest, I am sick of people saying 'dress professionally' and asserting that this is some objective thing, and not just the cultural whim of the day. Who determines what is professional, and why should we accept their definitions?

    This whole thing is a total beat up of the ATO. They also suggested not wearing boardies and flip flops, but that is never mentioned in the coverage. If you have a workplace culture at a Tax Office (somewhere you'd expect to be vaguely professional) where people are wearing board shorts and flip flops then the whole culture needs to be shifted, and a crackdown in general is totally appropriate.

    Since a few commenters have been dismissive of the body-type issue, I thought I would weigh in from the perspective of a woman with a large bust. While I absolutely agree that a workplace has the right to set a dress code and to expect employees to dress professionally and conservatively, it can honestly be VERY difficult for women with non-average body types to find clothing that fits this bill. For instance, a button-down top which looks neat and not revealing on a woman with a small to average bust would be bulging at the buttons on me - and if I bought a larger size of the same top, I would look years older and ten kilos heavier than I actually am.

    For women in particular, appearance and first impressions can count for a great deal, and it doesn't help my career to dress frumpily or in clothes that don't flatter my figure. I can't afford to have my clothes altered to fit me better, and while I'm trying to learn to modify them myself, at the moment I walk a fine line between revealing too much, and looking like I'm wearing a maternity outfit or a hessian sack. Unless my clothing is incredibly baggy, the size of my breasts is apparent no matter what I wear, and I shouldn't be made to feel ashamed or self-conscious of something about my body that I didn't choose and can't change. It disappoints me to see how often people assume completely untrue things about my personal morals or sexual availability because of this physical feature.

    You want to be treated as a professional then embrace reality, give it a good cuddle and dress professionally

    Seriously, this is what we're spending our tax dollars on?
    Stop ogling the girl in the next cubicle and get back to work!

    Sexist and moronic. The only concern should be weather someone isn't dressed smartly enough, "sexy" or "revealing" is irrelevant.

      Isn't it interesting how it has been assumed that this has been entirely instigated and applied by men? No one knows *whether* (not weather) it was a group of old ladies complaining loudly or something to do with men. But of course, it’s sexism. Cheers for the downvote when I quite clearly said tight clothes on men and women are both equally off limits. That's mighty sexist of me to talk about equallity.

      Last edited 07/05/14 5:27 pm

        It doesn't matter if women are for this as well or only, and it obviously is not about males, that's just being silly: in our society this does not happen with men, that suggestion is hypothetical and meaningless.
        All you're doing is inventing an artificial reality where this kind of restriction is not sexist. Meanwhile, in the real world, it is and that hasn't changed, no matter the sophistry.

          It doesn't happen with men because there is a strict dress code and they don't go to work with half of their d**k out and believe as long as the main functional part isn't showing all is well. Suit up, no ifs or butts. How is that not sexist? Face it, sexism only to ever happens to women. Until humanity ends, any attempt to make rules involving (AKA: Dominating, abusing etc etc) women will be met with cries of sexism.

          Last edited 07/05/14 6:54 pm

            Whatever man, the rules are sexist.
            If you would like to go to work in a short dress and tight underwear or a Lycra catsuit then I'll get on board and support your rights.

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