26 January 2017

A petition started by Nicola Thorp, after she was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels, led to an inquiry by Parliament's Women and Equalities Committee which has resulted in a damning report into some company practices.

MPs on the Committee heard that requirements for women to wear high heels at work remain widespread and their report concludes that the Equality Act 2010 is still not fully effective when it comes to protecting workers from discrimination.

"High heels and workplace dress codes", which can be found at http://bit.ly/2kqWl0L, explains the legal framework and examines workers’ experiences of challenging dress codes.

When Ms Thorp challenged her employer's dress code, she was laughed at in front of other workers by her (female) manager and sent home without pay.

The report states: "Dress codes which require women to wear high heels for extended periods of time are damaging to their health and wellbeing in both the short and the long term."

It highlights that many employees do not feel able to challenge the dress codes they are required to follow, even when they suspect that they may be unlawful.

As for employers, the Committee concludes: "It is clear to us that, in many cases, employers who impose dress codes on their workers simply are not asking themselves what legal obligations they might have to protect their employees’ health and wellbeing and to avoid discrimination against their employees, because they are not recognising the potential harm which their dress codes might cause."

Committee chairwoman Helen Jones has warned the Government that it must now accept that it has a responsibility to ensure that the law works in practice as well as in theory.