This week’s letters

Dress code rules are just common sense

I cannot see why an employer should expect men to obey a more strict dress
code at work than women (News, 18 March). Could this be seen as a culture where
men are viewed as more important than women – that it doesn’t really matter
what women wear to work because they don’t do anything really important?

We do not have a written dress code for our office staff, but rely on trust,
common sense and respect for customers. Staff in our nursing homes wear a
uniform, but we try to ensure we offer as much choice as possible.

As a service user myself, I cannot say that I would expect or indeed,
receive, a higher level of service from someone wearing a tie. As a member of
interview panels for a wide variety of jobs, the donning of a tie has never
been part of the selection criteria.

While I appreciate that in some jobs it is seen as important to look smart
and presentable, I do not agree that this means a tie has to be worn by all
men. Rather it should be a matter of personal choice. After all, there is
nothing worse than trying to communicate with someone who keeps fidgeting because
of their clothing.

Indeed, some of the ties I have experienced over the years could be viewed
as health and safety hazards – so brightly coloured they hurt your eyes,
harbouring bacteria from food spilt down them, or inconveniently getting
trapped in a shredder.

Tracy Inniss
Personnel manager, Hexagon Housing Association

Smart dress leads to professional manner

I feel that the dress code for both sexes and the acceptability of the tie
could be classed as ‘custom and practice’. We deal with this notion in other
areas of our work, so why should this be any different? We have a large call
centre, and experience shows staff approach call handling in a much more
professional manner when smartly dressed.

We also have monthly ‘dress down days’ to allow staff to relax a little and
have fun. However, we are now being asked whether appropriate dress can be
extended to shorts in the summer.

I feel the employment tribunal’s ruling was a little ‘OTT’ as the individual
concerned will no doubt now have a compensatory award.

My understanding of the Job Centre environment where the claimant worked,
was that overall, the management were attempting to present a more professional
approach by introducing the dress code.

It is just custom that men should wear shirts and ties and this should not
have resulted in a tribunal based on discrimination. I don’t believe men have a
stricter dress code imposed on them.

Mary Walker
Director of HR, McIntyre & King

Patricia Hewitt replies
We only regulate where necessary

The DTI does not ‘dream up’
employment regulations. We only regulate where there is a need and do so in
full consultation with all interested parties (Editorial comment, 25 March).

An independent Information Commissioner, not the DTI, is
currently consulting on the code on staff monitoring under the Data Protection
Act. It is crucial that this continues to be handled independently of

As regards equal pay questionnaires, the questionnaire and guidance
is available on our website from this week – www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk –
and a copy of the draft guidance and questionnaire has been available on the
website since 10 October 2002. It is substantially the same document but we
have improved the layout and used plainer English to make it more accessible.

Finally, we are introducing time off for Union Learning
Representatives to perform their duties and the code of practice is currently
going through Parliament. This will come into effect later this spring and will
give employers full guidance. Until then, no action is required by employers.

Patricia Hewitt
Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry

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