Employers must tie up dress codes after tribunal triumph

The battle for equality between men and women has been going on since Adam,
Eve, a snake and a certain apple.

While women are breaking through the glass ceiling and striving for equal pay,
a male civil servant struck an equality blow for men last week. He won the
right not to have to wear a tie at work.

An employment tribunal agreed Mark Thompson had been discriminated against
because he was forced to wear a shirt and tie for work, while female employees
in the same Jobcentre were allowed to wear T-shirts.

During the hearing, Thompson claimed the dress code required him to don a
tie, while women were free to wear more casual attire – even England football
shirts during last year’s World Cup.

His case was brought with the backing of the Public and Commercial Services
Union (PCS), which claims to have numerous similar cases ready.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said that although the ruling could
pave the way for thousands of other claims, the union would put them on hold
and begin talks with management over the issue.

Sue Nixon, employment partner at law firm Hammonds, said employers should be
more specific about what they expect staff to wear, ensuring the rules are fair
for both sexes.

"It’s a timely reminder for employers to review dress codes. They have
to impose specific rules for each sex and define exactly what they mean by
terms like ‘smart casual’," she said.

The Department for Work and Pensions vowed to appeal and said dress
standards were still an important part of providing services to the public.

By Ross Wigham

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