Workplace dress code: What are the laws?

Employment law: outraged woman sets up petition to ask the government to change the dress code law

A new employment law debate is raging across the UK after one outraged woman took to social media to complain that she was sent home from a temporary corporate receptionist position because she refused to wear high-heeled shoes.

Nicola Thorp walked into her new job at a City of London corporate firm wearing smart flat shoes. She was told immediately that she would have to change her flat shoes to high-heels, with an heel height of between two to four inches.

Woman sets up a petition to ban employers from demanding high-heels in the workplace

The petition on the website

Ms Thorp refused to comply with these dress code demands as her nine-hour shift involved escorting clients to and from meeting rooms and she did not believe she could manage the whole day wearing high-heels. She was consequently told to go home without pay.

Under the current law, employers can set “reasonable” dress code rules for men and women. The dress code can be different for men and women but must be the “equivalent level of smartness”.

So technically, employers can demand that female employers wear high-heels in the workplace without them breaching the law.

According to a podiatrist from the College of Podiatry, wearing high-heels for long periods of time on a regular basis can cause back problems, bunions, calve pain and can result in ankle injuries.

Ms Thorp has since launched a petition to the government for “women to have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work”. It has since been signed over 140,000 times and must now be debated in Parliament.

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