Department for Work and Pensions v Matthew Thompson, EAT [23 October 2003]

No ties ?: Following a re-organisation at his Jobcentre, Mr Thompson was advised that staff would be required to dress professionally and that the men must wear ties and the women dress to similar standard.

Thompson objected and received a formal warning. He raised a tribunal claim on the basis that Jobcentre’s requirement, and his subsequent warning, amounted to less favourable treatment on the grounds of his sex.

The tribunal agreed the dress code was discriminatory against men, as they were required to wear clothing of a particular kind, whereas women were not, and a higher standard of dress was being imposed. The Department of Work and Pensions successfully appealed.

In considering the relevant authorities, the EAT emphasised that treating female staff differently from males does not necessarily amount to less favourable treatment. The tribunal should have considered whether the level of smartness the Jobcentre required could only be achieved by men wearing a collar and tie. By failing to address this vital question, the case would be reheard.

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