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Is It Illegal to Force Women to Wear High Heels at Work?

May 12, 2016
A receptionist in London has set the ball rolling on changing dress code standards imposed on female employees at work. The employee was told that she was required to wear heels of between two to four inches as part of her role. When she refused she was sent home without pay for failing to meet the company’s dress code standards. 

Whilst the courts have held that employers in England and Wales have the ability to set dress codes at work in order to ensure a certain level of smartness, a dress code involving high heels has the potential to amount to sex discrimination as it would mean that women were treated less favourably than men. This would be particularly relevant if the reason for requiring high heels was to ensure that they looked more attractive.  

The employee in question has started a petition which at the time of writing has received almost 100,000 signatures. The agency employing the receptionist has since confirmed that they have changed their dress code policy. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has confirmed that if action had not been taken they would have called for the policy to be removed. 

With photographs of the bloodied feet of a Canadian waitress also circulating on social media sites, similarly caused by wearing high heels at work, it is clear that this is a hot topic. Employers would be well advised to take swift action to review their own dress code policies to ensure that they are not discriminatory and in order to avoid adverse publicity associated with this.  

Joanna Sutton

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Joanna Sutton

Joanna qualified as a solicitor in 2010 and joined Nockolds as a Senior Associate in March 2016 having previously worked and trained at another firm ...

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