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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 14:34 GMT
Sex row over tie rule
Matthew Thompson
Mr Thompson's case is being heard by an employment tribunal
A man who was ordered to wear a shirt and tie at work is a victim of sexual discrimination, an employment tribunal has been told.

A dress code brought in by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stipulated that men working in Jobcentre Plus offices had to wear a collar and tie to work - but set no similar stipulation for women.

Now Matthew Thompson, an administrative assistant at Jobcentre Plus in Stockport, Greater Manchester, has taken a test case against the DWP complaining of sexual discrimination.

Women in his office were allowed to wear T-shirts and on one occasion, one of his female colleagues even wore a football shirt without facing disciplinary action, Mr Thompson told the tribunal in Manchester.

Why should I be threatened with the sack if I do not wear a tie?
Matthew Thompson

"It may not be the convention for women to wear a collar and tie but the point I am making is that a similar standard of business dress is not applied to women as it is to myself," he said.

"Women are allowed to wear T-shirts, they have logos on the T-shirts, and on at least one occasion they have worn football tops," he added.

Before the hearing, Mr Thompson said he seldom came into contact with the public.

He added: "My duties are post sorting, distributing computer printouts, photocopying and issuing documents internally and through the post to customers.

If men are expected to wear shirts and ties, women should also wear suitable formal office clothes
Kate, UK

"Women are not required to wear any specified items of clothing. The dress standard makes no sense.

"Why should I be threatened with the sack if I do not wear a tie?"

Mr Thompson's case is being backed by the Public and Commercial Services union, which has another 39 cases ready to be followed up.

National officer David Burke said Jobcentre Plus workers faced fines of up to 10% of their salary as well as dismissal for refusing to conform to the dress code.

He said: "The code is draconian and unreasonable."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the dress code was part of a drive to provide improved services to the public.

"It puts us on a level with banks and building societies," she added.

The hearing continues.



The BBC's Catherine Marston
"This case has certainly got us all thinking"

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