The Home Affairs Department will be forced to listen to staff concerns when introducing new policies after losing its second battle against the workplace umpire over a sleeveless top ban it introduced earlier this year.
A decision by the Fair Work Commission made in April this year shot down the department's introduction of three new policies introduced between September 2020 and February 2021.
One of the policies determined what employees could wear while at work, including when working remotely, while two others introduced social media rules and guidelines on how staff can safely interact with children coming through customs and the immigration system.
But in a further blow to the major department, which employs office workers along with Border Force officials, the commission ruled out its attempt to overturn the decision this week.
"We are not persuaded that the grant of permission to appeal would be in the public interest, or that permission is otherwise justified on discretionary grounds," the commission said on Thursday.
It dismissed arguments made by the department that the commission's April ruling would have detrimental consequences for future policies it would need to introduce.
Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly said members welcomed the workplace umpire's decision to dismiss what she called a clearly "gendered" policy.
"The policies that brought this case to the FWC initially included wording of a new uniform rules that had clear gendered implications and targeted women, and more serious policies like working with children in detention," Ms Donnelly said.
"It is disappointing that Home Affairs cannot see the strength and experience its workforce could bring to policies and standards through consultation.
"CPSU members are on the front line of immigration, border, and national security every day, their experience can only make policies stronger."
The decision means the department will now need to consult on future policies it plans to introduce as well as begin retrospective consultation on polices introduced prior to the April ruling.
It's understood the union has been in talks with Home Affairs officials over the controversial workplace attire policy to address concerns members had over its appropriateness. A decision has yet to be finalised.
A Home Affairs spokesperson said the appeal decision helped it to clarify the April ruling and its implications on the workplace agreement.
"The department remains steadfast in the support of its employees and committed to ensuring that they all have the opportunity to be genuinely consulted on matters that affect their employment," a spokesperson said.
"This decision and explanation provided by the FWC on 22 July assists us to undertake appropriate consultations."
The Community and Public Sector Union said the department had not given staff a minimum of two weeks to comment on the policies, procedures and guidelines or proposed changes to existing ones before they were introduced.
The department argued to the commission there were "practical difficulties" involved in speaking to staff and the union each time they planned to introduce or change a policy.
The workplace attire policy, introduced in February months after the union initiated talks with Home Affairs, updated the department's dress and appearance standards, requiring staff to undertake additional hygiene requirements and maintain a "neat and tidy appearance".
It also excluded staff from wearing sleeveless tops, dresses and blouses, considered unsuitable attire, in both the office and while working from home.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: