A campaign to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels at work is about to hit 100,000 signatures, after a debate over work wear sparked questions about women’s rights.
The petition has so far gained 98,000 signatures. If the campaign reaches 100,000 signatures the debate will go to the Houses of Parliament for discussion.
Nicola Thorp launched the petition after she was reportedly sent home from a job at accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) , where she was employed by the temp agency Portico.
It was reported that receptionist Thorp was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels for her nine hour shifts. Portico recruited the reception staff for PwC and Thorp claims to have been sent home without pay.
Thorp, 27, from Hackney in east London, arrived for work in December with flat shoes but was told that she had to wear “2in to 4in heel”.
PwC released a statement today saying: “We are pleased that Portico has responded to our concerns and is updating its uniform policy with immediate effect.
“PwC places a great deal of emphasis on providing a progressive working environment for all of our people and we feel strongly that this must include third party employees working in our offices.
“We are now reviewing our supplier uniform codes to ensure they are aligned with our own values.”
Outsourcing firm Portico told the BBC this morning “with immediate effect all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes”.
As reported by the BBC, Portico said it set the uniform rules for staff but would review its guidelines.
Thorp told BBC Radio London: “I said, ‘If you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough’, but they couldn’t. I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said I just won’t be able to do that in heels.”
The Women’s Equality Party stressed today that that high heels should not form any part of compulsory business dress.
Party Leader Sophie Walker, said: “Wearing high heels is a matter of personal taste, and should not be imposed by an employer for reasons of professional ‘standards’.
“If men are not required to wear a certain type of heel to work, neither should women be. It’s that simple.”
Discussing Thorp Walker said: “PwC were within their rights as an employer to ask Thorp to wear a heeled shoe, according to the definition of ‘formal dress code’ which stipulates different standards for men and women,” explained Walker. “The Women’s Equality Party oppose the imposition of gendered standards for footwear – WE believe equality is better for everyone.”
“This is a form of occupational segregation. Thorp has been denied potential earnings because she quite rightly wanted to be comfortable at work. WE challenge employers to update their definition of ‘appropriate dress’.”