Headlines: August 13th, 2001

Plans to present a bright new corporate image for Job Centre Plus, the newly merged Employment Service and Benefits Agency, have provoked staff opposition. Corporate image is a key feature for any new organization and is particularly important when two distinct cultures are brought together. Staff dress is planned to play key role in presenting the new image with blouses for the women and ties and tiepins for the men. Early proofs of the proposed Job Centre Plus uniform design have caused concern to members of the PCS union who object to the imposition of a corporate style, similar to that of high street banks and building societies.Union commentators see these designs as the first concrete indication that management intend to impose a uniform dress code on all staff. They have challenged management to explain how the dress code fits the criteria of the Human Rights Act and freedom of expression. A source within the union said: “With ties like these it is only a matter of time before a PCS test case goes ahead”.

The new Agency plans to launch some 50 pathfinder Job Centre Plus offices in the next few months. They will deliver an integrated jobs and benefits service which will provide high quality access to job advice and information, including touch screen ‘Jobpoint’ computer terminals giving access to thousands of vacancies across the country. There will also be a single gateway to the welfare system for all working age clients based around personal advisers.