NSW Men must wear trousers and a shirt and tie... females... meh, wear whatever

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27 November 2019
So I started at an elite private school this year and it is managed terribly.
I feel this is a simple case of discrimination and written in policy, which is not followed by female staff.

What are my options, legally? Is this legal?

The school policy (see below) sets the student uniform as the minimum standard and explicitly condones singlets. However, female staff (80% of staff) wear anything... pajamas, singlets, bright colours and bold patterns. A shirt with a collar is rarely seen on female staff, although this is what female students are wearing and is set as the minimum by school policy.

Meanwhile, male staff are expected to wear a shirt AND tie AND trousers.

I was told I could wear long shorts, but when I did, I was told I could not. In fact, in my second interview in early 2019, I was told by the School Principal, the Head of Senior School, and the acting Head of Science that shorts were okay, as long as they were to the knees. Yet when I wore shorts, a few days later the School Deputy Principal told me I could not wear shorts as it was not the norm.

The acting Head of Science then told me I would not be working here in the future if I continued to wear shorts. She was not wearing professional attire and regularly wears smart casual to casual wear to work. I brought this up with her earlier, and she effectively said women have been discriminated against in the past, ergo, women do not need to wear professional attire here, and if I do not tuck my shirt in and put on a tie, I would not be working here next year. I put on a tie and tucked in my shirt and asked if what I was wearing was fine. She said yes; I was wearing shorts… now shorts are not fine all of a sudden... WTF?

The basis of my argument is that if men are expected to wear trousers, then so should women. If men are expected to wear collared shirts, then so should women. I feel I was singled out for being a male, for something minor (long shorts), given the circumstances and the way in which many female staff present themselves. I have highlighted some of the school policy for you.

A staff dress code establishes a sense of professionalism and pride, while portraying a united staff team. As a general rule staff should dress professionally to a minimum standard set by the uniform expectations of students. There will be variations and flexibility within this general rule depending on the circumstances. The following guidelines are an attempt to clarify most of these circumstances.

Staff Dress Code Guidelines

  • Professional dress is required at all times. Educators/staff are not to wear or display items of clothing that contain offensive languages and/or graphics.

  • Appropriate footwear must be worn according to WHS guidelines ie no thongs or backless sandals.

  • Shorts are expected to be to the knee or below eg 3/4 length pants.

  • Jewelry should be kept to a minimum with care taken to not wear sharp, raised stones on rings. Multiple/long/hooped earrings and necklaces will not be worn as they may invite children to pull on them or could get caught on objects whilst performing daily tasks.

  • Body piercing is to be kept to a minimum. Body piercing that may cause a risk to the educators/staff member or children, are to be removed or covered appropriately.

  • Staff are required to cover visible tattooing and avoid outlandish looking hair colours.

Normal School Days and Professional Learning Days

  • Male staff should wear trousers, collared business shirt (may be short sleeve in summer) and tie.

  • Female staff should wear clothing that presents a similar professional standard, taking into account the expectations of all school stakeholders.

  • Staff should wear clothing that is tasteful and not ‘revealing’ or offensive. i.e. clothing such as singlets, cropped tops, spaghetti or shoe string straps should not be worn and skirts should be of an appropriate length.

  • Female staff are required to wear shoes that are suitable to their role and allow them to move freely and safely around campus in an appropriate manner. They are to take into account the height of heels as well as the specific to their role. In the [Redacted - Privacy] and Junior School, teachers are discouraged from wearing heels which could cause injury to student hands when sitting on the floor.

  • All staff must wear a form of recognised and approved school ID while on school premises.

  • In some specialist areas, protective or other recommended clothing and/or footwear must be worn according to OH&S guidelines. For example, closed in footwear and/or lab coats. In some circumstances ties may present a danger and would not need to be worn. Refer to individual Department and/or OH&S policies for detail.

  • In other specialist areas, such as PE & Drama, where freedom of physical movement is a normal part of a lesson, clothing that is appropriate to carrying out these duties may be different to the general rule. Again the guiding principle is one of dressing to a professional standard.


  • When staff are attending and supervising Carnivals, designated [Redacted - Privacy] House Colours or [Redacted - Privacy] sports wear (sports shirts, shorts, tracksuit) may be worn with appropriate footwear. Otherwise professional dress should be worn.

  • Junior School staff participating in timetabled school sport may wear [Redacted - Privacy] sports wear (as above) for the day.

  • Staff supervising before or after school sport should be dressed in professional attire during the normal school day.

Meetings with Parents (outside normal school time)

  • Appropriate professional dress, including suit or sports jacket for men and similar professional standards for women.

Special School Events (such as Open Day, Final Presentation Evening)

  • Appropriate professional dress, including suit or sports jacket for men and similar professional standards for women. Academic gowns should be worn at Final Presentation Events. Staff will be notified when academic gowns are required.

These guidelines should guide both male and female staff and provide for choice while maintaining the School’s commitment to presenting a consistent image to the broader School community.
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Well-Known Member
25 July 2018
I've been saying that about professional tennis players for a few decades now. What some of the women wear is far more suited for standing on street corners than wearing on a tennis court. But anyway...

As for your case, grab the guideline you just quoted, sit down with the boss (the principle I assume) and ask for clarification. Then ask him/her to pull all the wannabe bosses into line so that everyone is on the same page. As for the threats to your job, do any of the wannabes even have any say in that? You might want to bring that up as well.

Don't make it about what other people are wearing - make it about the contradictions and the fact that different people are telling you different things, with some even threatening your job over it. Let the boss know that it's not acceptable.
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27 November 2019
Thanks for the reply Scruff. I did that... a few weeks ago..
I pointed out that it was unfair for men to follow the policy to the dot while other staff were free to break it.

One problem is the boss...
Just this morning she was wearing a bright summer dress, arms exposed and all, breaking school policy.

She told me to follow directions... Men must wear trousers (even though I was told long shorts were fine upon signing on).

If male, then trousers and shirt and tie.
If female, then, meh... wear whatever you like.

Is this not discrimination?

When I Google it, I find Human Rights law and workplace legislation which suggests that unless it is a WH&S issue, you can't tell one group of people to wear particular clothing without asking all groups to adhere to a similar code.

Is it not discrimination to say if male, then trousers? It's bloody hot here and I like to walk to work. If I was born a different sex, I could just wear a Sunday dress to work...

Thanks for reading and hope to get some clarity on this.


27 November 2019
Haha, yeah, I'm not trying to stir the pot... I thought about wearing a dress and identifying as a female, but they don't like same sex marriage etc here, so I'd be stoned at the gate... ugh

The Q: "What are my options, legally? Is this legal?"

Is it legal, under discrimination law or otherwise, to force men to wear trousers in a workplace which does not require it for OH&S, and not enforce the same policy/standard on female employees?


Well-Known Member
6 February 2019
I wish I could point you to some piece of legislation, but ....Dare I say it...one gender seems to be afforded a much greater level of sympathy & attention then the other these days, this being an example by your acting head of science >> she effectively said women have been discriminated against in the past, ergo, women do not need to wear professional attire here...

I will be watching this thread with interest to see if someone comes along that can offer some legal remedy, however, I suspect you are at the whim of those that are on a power trip & even in the event of a 'win' on this issue, will do their best to make your life as miserable as they feel... Hope I'm wrong.