A corporate receptionist working in the City of London has launched a petition asking for it to be made illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels for work.
Many of us reading Nicola Thorp’s news story of how she was sent home without pay after refusing to wear heels for work will comment that her employers are in breach of Equality Law already. Surely their actions are a clear example of Sex (gender) discrimination? – After all, how many male employees have been treated the same way we wonder?
Surprisingly, her employer’s actions are not illegal. Company uniform and dress guidelines are commonplace in service industries and customer facing roles, and it’s perfectly legal for a company to have different uniform guidelines for female and male employees, as long as they have a comparable ‘level of smartness’. If the employee has read and signed these guidelines on joining the company, it forms part of the employment contract and therefore disciplinary action can be taken if the guidelines are not adhered to.
Thorp’s petition urges a law change which makes wearing heels at work a personal choice, not something an employer can dictate. In a matter of days it has already reached well over the 10,000 signatures needed to require an official response from government. If it gains over 100,000 it will be debated in parliament.
Could this be the first step (apologies for the pun) in appearance becoming a protected characteristic under Equality Law?You will find the petition here: Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work