Plain English Guide to British Employment Law
High heels, dress codes and sex discrimination at work
Agency worker Nicola Thorp came to the attention of the headlines when it emerged that she had been sent home from her job at accountancy firm PwC due to her refusal to wear high heels. She had apparently been told that she had to wear shoes with a “2in to 4in heel” and, when she declined this request and noted that male colleagues were not asked to do wear heels, she was promptly sent home without pay. Although she worked within the PwC offices, she was working for outsourcing firm Portico which handles the PwC front of house and reception services. A spokesman for PwC stated that: “PwC does not have specific dress guidelines for male or female employees.”
There is currently no law governing dress codes set by employers, although there have been several cases on this matter. As such, technically women can be required by employers to wear high heels, subject to a disability which makes this difficult.
Ms Thorp set up a petition to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels at work. This has now reached over 100,000 signatures and, as such, must be considered for a debate in Parliament. The petition has also sparked an inquiry into the issue by the Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee.