A civil servant who complained about having to wear a collar and tie to work has won a sexual discrimination case.
Matthew Thompson, who works at the Jobcentre Plus office in Stockport, Greater Manchester, complained that men had to wear formal clothes, while women were allowed to wear T-shirts, and even football shirts.
A further 39 cases are now expected to be pursued with the help of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.
Do you agree with the ruling? Is the shirt and tie sexist? Can you suggest an alternative dress code?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
I don't have too much of a problem with wearing a collared shirt and smart trousers at work, but I detest wearing ties. They're uncomfortable (they make you feel like you're being choked), inconvenient, (they get in the way of what you're doing), and women are under no obligation to wear them but men are. My workplace reintroduced shirt and ties for men, while women could get away with T-shirts, combat trousers and trainers.
What's wrong with a tie-less open collar if a man is otherwise neat and tidy in his appearance? Ties are uncomfortable and pointless!
Gavin, London, UK
I think if we saw what was acceptable in society 300 years ago we'd get the whole thing in perspective, it's not the clothes we wear, so long as we are clean and clothed what does it matter. Christ wore robes, Shakespeare wore breaches, then let's look at the hair issue! We could go on and on criticising another's appearance yet we teach our children don't judge a book by its cover.
If someone feels strongly they don't wish to wear a certain garment then who are we to impose our expectations on them, does it affect their performance and service - I doubt it, service with a smile and who cares what they wear. I say let's have individuals not employ clones. A tie is one of the most uncomfortable pieces of clothing a man can wear, mind you some of the things people wear which aren't visible the mind boggles whether comfort comes into it at all!
Phil Holden, UK
If you were unemployed and seeking guidance on applying for jobs, would you take advice from a man who is himself too lazy to dress professionally for work? Sorry Matthew Thomson, but most people have to wear suits/uniforms/unflattering safety gear for work - that's life. Leave the uniform protests to school kids
Leave the uniform protests to school kids
James Price, UK
I agree that it is not about sexism but rather about looking smart. How many of you out there would feel confident in a GP's ability if you walked into their office to find them sporting full Hawaiian regalia? Not me.
As a DWP frontline employee of a certain age I have never had any objections to wearing a collar and tie to work - I joined the former Employment Service to help provide a public service. What the DWP's heavy handed dress policy has eroded is my right to choose what I wear. Whilst I applaud the ruling I fear that DWP will get its revenge with more draconian, more serious staff measures - its moves on sickness management, performance related pay are already clearly sign-posted. Many current DWP District management edicts on dress do in fact prescribe what women staff mustn't wear, and in many ways reflect prevailing male managerial prejudices disguised as policy. The Taliban is alive and amongst us yet!
Being someone who hates wearing a tie, I can very much understand the grievance this has caused, and in this day and age of "equal opportunities" you certainly can't have one rule for women and a different one for men! So fair play - if he doesn't like wearing a tie then good result. But for him to say he has "injured feelings" and his human rights have been breached is just plain silly! Anyone with half a brain can see quite clearly that it is yet another case of someone wanting to make easy money and finding it all too easy with the state of European law as it is!
It is yet another case of someone wanting to make easy money
I have to admit that I wear a collar and tie at work, but this is my choice. I would suggest that if a company requires a set standard of dress, then the fair way is for the company to provide a corporate uniform. This should help prevent any discrimination of either gender, and yet still provide a business like appearance.
In many places women are still expected to wear skirts/dresses and stockings. If men don't have to wear ties, why should women have to wear skirts/dresses and stockings? Maybe the only requirements should be to be dressed neatly and cleanly and not in jeans. I think that'd be fair to both.
When I go into a place of business, I want to be served by smart people, not scruffs who look like they'd rather be on a beach on the Mediterranean. No wonder this country's going down the tubes when we have anti-traditionalist whingers like this wasting the time of our judges.
I want to be served by smart people, not scruffs
Chris, United Kingdom
The dress code is not discriminatory, but it seems that women were just being unfairly disregarded in its application. Equal rights means equal responsibility to the rules. Good for Mr Thompson.
Barry Pump, US
The shirt and tie itself is not sexist, but quite obviously insisting that men wear the traditional formal dress of shirt and tie, whilst women are allowed to wear whatever they like is blatantly sexist.
Furthermore, I fail to see what implication your style of dress has on your ability to do your job well. Maybe this is one reason that British industry is in such a mess - its filled with people who are inept at their jobs, but who wear a nice shirt and tie!
Simon Moore, EU
Ties are just the start of the problem. What about all the special consideration that women get over and above men in all other areas? Dare we ask about the differences in maternity and paternity leave, or the fact that women are often given more flexible working arrangements than men because of "family responsibilities" that somehow some employers seem to think that men do not have.
Ties are just the start of the problem.
Hurray for Matthew! And how nice to see the tribunal took a sensible, fair-minded view. I consider ties old-fashioned and uncomfortable and the view men can't be smart without one is just a ridiculous convention.
The shirt and tie are not per se sexist. What is sexist is the enforcement of discriminatory dress codes. If the men have to wear shirt and tie, then the women should have to wear similarly appropriate clothes.
It concerns me, though I am not surprised, that the DWP let this case get so far. Who in the right minds could argue that the policy they sought to enforce here was anything but discriminatory? But that's the civil service for you.
Nigel Pond, Brit living in the USA
I cannot believe that tens of thousands of pounds of tax payers money are being wasted on this case. Yes there should be a sensible dress code that is fair on both men and women, but surely it doesn┐t require a court case to sort it out - let common sense prevail and sack whomever is responsible for allowing the case to get this far in the first place!
Ask yourself one question. Why is Matthew Thompson wearing a shirt and tie in his photo. It is about creating an impression and not about equality. I have never seen a judge (or any other professional) wearing sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt at work. Perhaps the next case the union will take to tribunal is the right for men to use female toilets and vice versa.
It is about creating an impression and not about equality.
I think that the case is fuelled more by the lure of compensation than equal rights. For how long have men worn ties without complaint?
Considering the Sexual Discrimination Act came about in 1975, I am amazed it has taken over twenty-five years to come to this - at last!
I agree with the ruling but am amazed it got this far. Did the management at DWS not realise how ridiculous their policy was when it was first pointed out? The discrimination aspect aside, it's draconian to impose shirt and tie rules on backroom staff whether they are male or female.
I agree with the ruling but am amazed it got this far
It seems clear that many people are missing the point here. The first rule of dress for any business should be to "dress like your customers." Only in that way will we create an open and borderless environment. Maybe if the management of Jobcentre Plus thought to ask their clients about this employee dress codes they might be surprised to discover that they don't actually give a hoot provided they are treated fairly and with respect.
The comment from the Department of Work and Pensions spokesman that pending an appeal "we are asking our staff to continue to dress in a professional and business-like way."
shows that they are totally missing the point of the ruling.
The whole point is that it is only men who are required to adhere to a strict dress code, women can wear pretty much what they like which is discriminatory
How dare the Department of Work and Pensions consider appealing against this decision. If they do, they are in effect saying that men must dress formally, whereas women can dress casually. That is unfair, and in this day and age many men feel as I do, that a tie is unnecessary and a discomfort.
A tie is unnecessary and a discomfort
I am currently working for DWP and am happy with this decision.
Wearing a tie is an obsolete, uncomfortable, pointless, and in many workplaces a dangerous thing to do. I'm all for having to wear smart clothing in the office, but not a ridiculous strip of material dangling from your neck. Well done Mat!
Simon Gutteridge, United Kingdom
I agree with the verdict. I was made to remove my earring at one job because I was male- but it was ok for women to wear earrings!?
Bobby Ganola, UK
I hope this is the start of a countrywide assessment of the sexism that exists in the dress codes at work. Women wear casual and fashionable clothes for work without the requirement for a suit. Some turn up looking like any old clip.
I think the main problem is cost. Women can use their current clothes for work but men have the additional expense of acquiring a suit, shirts and tie which otherwise would not be their causal attire.
If the current state of play is to continue then men should receive payments from their employer for their required work clothes.
Men have the additional expense of acquiring a suit
The ruling is correct.
The shirt and tie is not sexist. It is the failure of company/civil service managers to maintain an adequate level of control on female dress codes. The women have been able to get away with far too much.
Would it not have made more sense to have ensured that women were also made to dress appropriately? If this had happened, there could have been no discrimination case in the first place. After all it is supposed to be a professional place of work, not a night in the pub.
Yes it's sexist. But, come on, it is hardly a big deal. It is not offensive like topless calendars or bottom pinching. It is not as though this guy had a medical or religious basis for his objection. Is it really worth all the fuss?
Oh, come on! Women's business dress is much more uncomfortable and restrictive than a man's shirt and tie. I agree that women shouldn't be allowed to wear whatever they want if the men have a dress code, but I'd rather wear a shirt and tie than pantyhose and high heels! In a more formal setting, men always have the greater advantage.
In a more formal setting, men always have the greater advantage.
Tina Schultz, USA
The tie must be one of the most pointless, useless, ridiculous items of clothing ever created. Why having a piece of cloth knotted around your neck should be considered "smart" is beyond me.
Mick B, UK
I cannot agree with the ruling. I believe that in this, and any other workplace of similar standing, that men should wear a collar and tie which shows respect for themselves and whoever they are dealing with. Likewise, women should not be allowed to wear football shirts, and only t-shirts if worn with appropriate more formal dress. As for Mr Thompson... to say his feelings are hurt and his human rights are abused, this is a case of him either being a wimp (in which case he should not be in the position he is in) or its just another excuse for money for nothing...
Judy Mitchell, UK
Personally, I am appalled that the DWP is going to spend more of OUR money on fighting this rather than just sorting it out with the union.
Andy Richards, UK
This is utterly ridiculous. A sensible solution would've been to enforce the same rules for both men and women. And in this case, women at the Jobcentre should've been expected to dress formally like their male colleagues too. Oh well, a Jobcentre in the North will never be like a bank in the City of London. But Thompson's claims for compensation and human rights are laughable - he should get a life! Wallowing in self-pity like that just because he has to wear a tie to work - get real! Turn on the news and see people in Iraq suffer and in comparison, how stupidly trivial is this issue?
How stupidly trivial is this issue?
Alex Liang, London UK
Brilliant! The tyranny of the tie faced down at last. Ties can look pretty but they don't keep me warm enough in the winter and make my neck hot and itchy in the summer and raises my blood pressure. You can look perfectly smart without a tie. Free the neck!
What is a tie for in the first place? A button does a perfectly good job of keeping your collar together. I find it incredible that in a job like mine where I never meet the public, that a dress code is required at all. Good one Matthew. May ties now be put to rest along with the bowler hat & umbrella image.
Glynn Oliver, UK
Glad to see that sense has prevailed - men should not be treated differently from women and this ruling reflects that. Equality cuts both ways and while there is still work to be done to balance the scales, discrimination of any sort is wrong.
Equality cuts both ways
Congratulations Matthew, it must have taken a lot of guts to stand up to such a powerhouse as the Department for Work and Pensions. And by the way, I thought that their response to the judgement showed breath-taking arrogance and a total disregard for the spirit of the legislation. I pray that their appeal backfires spectacularly!
I have noticed that an increasing number of current affairs TV presenters and news reporters on the BBC have stopped wearing ties. Quite right too in my opinion. Ties are an outdated hangover from a bygone world, and it is quite easy to be smart and tie-less.
I'm going to wear a frock and stilettos tomorrow.
At last, some true equality for men in the workplace. A sensible decision. The ruling only highlights the double standards that have existed for years with regard to men's dress code.
All the employer has to do is to ensure that both sexes are treated fairly when it comes to dress code, and if this means ensuring that the women "dress up" not dress down, so be it! Question - are men permitted to wear kilts in the Jobcentre?
I agree with the ruling. It is unfair to expect different standards of dress from people depending on their sex. If men have to wear ties, women should have to dress smartly too - and in my opinion that may (occasionally) include t-shirts (depending on style, other clothes worn with them, etc), but would never include football shirts, or other items with large pictures or logos.
It is unfair to expect different standards of dress from people depending on their sex
To be honest I would like to see the day when you can turn up to work wearing a pair of big red sun glasses with a Hawaiian shirt to match!
Alex T, UK
It's not about sexism. It's all about looking smart. Surely, women must be made to look smart as well as men. All this case has done is make the DWP even less business-like than before.
The whole issue ignores the fact that most women can be trusted not to turn up to the office looking like they've been dragged through a hedge backwards without needing it spelled out to them.
I think this case was right. What I find interesting is how long men have worn the style of shirt and tie and why a new fashion alternative has not evolved. This style has lasted for more than 100 years and when you analyse it - it's just plain silly.
If different standards are being applied to men and women, then yes, it is sexist. I personally regard it as pointless though. I mean, who would willingly put a noose around their neck?
This is a great victory for common sense. Since more and more women have joined the workplace, nobody has given any thought about what they should be wearing, whereas men's dress codes were established donkeys years ago. It's time to take a sober look at this matter now in the light of the ruling, and maybe bring dress codes into the 21st century for both sexes.
A great victory for common sense
I am lucky that my managers do not object to me wearing informal clothes to work, but previous management did. I don't believe that in this age of "equality" men should be able to wear whatever they want to work - just like women.