Eurostar staff in dispute on skirts may sue firm

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The Independent Online
TWO FEMALE security guards at Eurostar are considering legal action after being sent home from work for wearing trousers and told not to return unless they wore skirts. The company claimed that otherwise passengers would not be able to tell they were women.

Debbie Sheen, 35, and Lynn Mackay, 37, had been working at Eurostar for a year when its security contract was taken over on 14 October by Securitas, which imposed the new dress code. The women have the backing of MPs and the GMB general union.

At a press conference in London yesterday, Miss Sheen, from south-east London, said: "If I go to work in a skirt, I think I am actually giving in to bullying and I don't want to be bullied by anyone, especially not an employer. We wear trousers because it's more practical."

Unless Eurostar allows them either to return to their posts at Waterloo station wearing trousers, or to move to security jobs in which staff may wear trousers, they will take their cases to an industrial tribunal, claiming sexual discrimination and breach of contract.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North, accused Eurostar of being concerned about "fashion statements", rather than whether its employees were doing their jobs properly. He said: "Debbie, a single mother with two sons to bring up, has been put in the invidious position of losing her livelihood because Eurostar likes to see women in skirts."

Miss Sheen and Ms Mackay argue that it is least appropriate for security guards who screen and search to have to wear skirts, as the job involves hauling heavy suitcases and bending down. Women security guards in other areas may wear skirts or trousers. Paul Kenny, regional secretary of the GMB, who is preparing their cases, said: "The safety of the travelling public should be of greater concern than the 'look' of female security guards."