Opinion Panels warn: Killer heels whilst you work?
After a London Receptionist was sent home from her temp job last month for refusing to wear high heels, it sparked an online petition calling for a ban to ‘sexist’ rules forcing women to wear heels at work. The petition has since had over 100,000 signatures, meaning it will now be considered for a debate in Parliament.
The argument behind Nicola Thorp’s online petition is that women should be able to wear the same uniform as their male counterparts, so long as they are smartly dressed. She, together with a host of supporters, are calling for the law to be changed so that employers are not allowed to force women to wear high heels as part of the uniform (in the same way that they do not force men to do so). According to a survey being carried out by BBC News, Ms Thorpe isn’t the only dress code victim, and many people have since turned to Twitter and Facebook to voice similar stories of how being forced to wear high heels at work is damaging to their feet and posture.
Much of the argument is based on the idea that high heels are designed to make women look sexually alluring, which has no place in the workplace. According to an online survey last year, men reacted differently to women wearing high heels than they did to those wearing flat shoes. (For example, the survey revealed that if a woman dropped something in the street near a man she was 50% more likely to have the item picked up for her if she was wearing high heels.) The study, which strongly connected wearing high heels with sexual intent, understandably jars with modern gender equality values in 2016.
It’s not just the sexual image people are concerned about. According to online survey results published by the Royal Collage of Podiatry, 90% of women in the UK have foot problems - such as bunions and corns - many of which can be linked to wearing high heels or inappropriate footwear. According to the survey, more than twice the number of women to men reported suffering caused by their footwear, and a separate study warned that wearing high heels three or more times a week led to harmful imbalances in muscles which could cause ankle sprains and injuries. Specialists have since advised women to limit stiletto wearing, and to choose shoes with greater support as often as possible.
According to the current UK law, employers are allowed to force their employees to follow a reasonable uniform code of conduct, but a dress code which includes forced high heels for women "reeks of sexism", said Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC. He went on to say that "High heels should be a choice, not a requirement."
Nicola Thorp’s experience has since successfully forced her employer to change their uniform rules, allowing women to wear smart flat shoes if they choose to, and it looks like many thousands of people agree with her argument. It’s a sad case to see in 2016, but it remains to be seen whether the law will change or whether we just have to hope that any reasonable employer would give everyone equal rights when it comes to what they wear to work.
What do you think? Is it right that some women are forced to wear high heels to work? Should the law be changed, or do you think employers should be allowed to enforce any uniform they want? We’d love to hear what you think! Join the discussion on Facebook, and don’t forget to have your say and earn money in your spare time with paid online surveys at Opinion Outpost UK.