Parliament debated whether women should be forced to wear high heels as dress code in the UK workplace.

UK Lawmakers Debate Mandatory High Heels For Women In The Workplace

In Parliament on Monday, British lawmakers addressed corporate UK rules about mandatory high heels for women in the workplace and told employers that they needed to stop forcing women to don heels as part of their dress code.

This Parliament debate over forcing women to wear high heels to work in the UK began after Nicola Thorp took a temporary job with a London finance firm called PwC, but was told by the agency she was working with, Portico, that there was a decidedly firm dress code in place that required her to wear high heels that were between two to four inches high.

Also included in this dress code were rules that said women must have no “visible roots” showing in their hair and must also “regularly reapply” their makeup throughout the day. However, it was the mandatory rule saying that Thorp must wear high heels which bothered her the most as she was sent home from work, unpaid, because she wore flat shoes to her job.

Olga Nielsen wearing high heels in London in 1953.
Olga Nielsen wearing high heels in London in 1953. Some UK lawmakers believe current workplace dress codes requiring high heels are reminiscent of the 1950s and should be changed. [Image by Keystone/Getty Images]

Nicola Thorp decided to start an online petition, calling for an end to “outdated and sexist” workplaces rules in the UK, particularly those which require women to wear two to four inch high heels to work each day. This petition reached the necessary 150,000 signatures which made it eligible to have the issue debated in Parliament.

USA Today reported that when Nicola spoke with the BBC, she explained that at one time women would never have been allowed to wear trousers in the workplace, and the rule for mandatory high heels in UK offices should reflect the age that we live in and change, much like it did when workplaces began to let women wear trousers in to work.

“Dress codes should reflect society. Twenty years ago, women weren’t allowed to wear trousers in the same role that I’m doing now. And it’s only because some women spoke up about that and said, ‘We feel like we have a right to wear trousers,’ that that’s changed.”

While the Parliament debate on Monday is technically non-binding, there is growing incentive for UK businesses to start changing their dress codes, particularly when it comes to forcing women to wear high heels in to work each day.

There are British laws in place that explicitly forbid companies from discriminating against women, but “discriminatory dress codes” are still commonplace, a report from Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee claimed. NBC Bay Area reported that this happens most often in the retail and tourist industries.

The Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee have stated that they have had contact with numerous women who have not only been forced to wear high heels to work each day, but had even been required to bleach their hair blonde to stay employed. Other women complained that they felt forced to wear “revealing outfits” and thought it time-consuming to constantly have to reapply their makeup while at work.

The point has been raised that men have their own dress code and are required to wear suits and ties in to work each day, so perhaps women should be required to wear heels. However, unlike a suit and tie, wearing high heels for extended periods of time can have detrimental effects, such as “reduced balance, reduced ankle flexion and weaker muscle power in the calf,” The College of Podiatry confirmed.

A model in high heels at the Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016-2017 Show in Paris on July 4, 2016.
A model in high heels at the Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016-2017 Show in Paris on July 4, 2016. [Image by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]

UK lawmakers like Labour’s Helen Jones, who was one of the investigators on this case, spoke in Parliament of how shocked she was when she researched dress codes for women in the workplace today.

“We found attitudes that belonged more — I was going to say in the 1950s, but probably the 1850s would be more accurate, than in the 21st century.”

What do you think about dress codes for women in the UK workplace and do you think women should be required to wear two to four inch high heels in to the office every day?

[Featured Image by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]

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