Can Your Boss Make You Wear High Heels at Work?

Nicola Thorp
credit: Adam Gray

“It seems so obviously outdated and sexist. I was expected to do a nine-hour shift meeting and greeting client, but I wasn’t prepared to be on my feet all day meeting clients.” – Ms Thorp.

When Nicola Thorp arrived for her first day as a temporary receptionist at accountancy firm Price-Waterhouse Coopers she was sent home for wearing flat shoes.

Ms Thorp says she was laughed at when she told her bosses that she didn’t want to wear high heels on her first day as a corporate receptionist.  She was told to go home without pay unless she went out and bought heels that were between two and four inches high. She refused and alleges Portico – the firm that runs PwC’s reception at its office in Embankment, central London – told her to go home.

Under the current law UK employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to reasonable dress code demands as long as they have been given enough to buy the right shoes and clothes. They can set up different codes for men and women, as long as there’s an equivalent level of smartness.

However, after the story broke Business Secretary Javid Sajid tweeted “No woman should be forced to wear high heels. Responsible employers shouldn’t need the law to tell them that.”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq told the Telegraph: “The idea that in 2016 a woman can be sent home from a professional job for daring to not wear high heels is as preposterous as it is archaic. The fact that this sort of overt sexism still bubbles under the surface of our professions is demeaning and unacceptable.”

Parliament will now be debating this issue after an online petition has received over 130,000 signatures.

Since the incident Portico have changed their policy and women are no longer required to wear high heels, but many companies do still have such a policy in place.

The law might change though when Parliament debate the issue. The petition calls on the government to make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work. It states:

“It’s still legal in the UK for a company to require female members of staff to wear high heels at work against their will. Dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work, if they wish. Current formal work dress codes are out-dated and sexist.”

If you want the law to change so that women are not required to wear high heels at work you can sign the petition here:
Sign the petition

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