Posted on 24.4.17
On Friday, the Government rejected the call to make it illegal for employers to tell women to wear high heels at work.
The controversial issue was debated in parliament in March following a 152,000-signature-petition, prompted by the story of Nicola Thorpe, a receptionist, who was sent home on her first day of employment with PwC because she wasn’t wearing high heels.
A Parliamentary Investigation was then launched into ‘The High Heels Debate’ which uncovered widespread discrimination and potentially unlawful practices in workplaces across the UK, relating to dress codes.
Miss Thorpe has spoken out about the decision, stating “The government should take responsibility and put it in legislation. I do think it is a little bit of a cop-out”.
The Government argued an outright ban would be unnecessary as there is adequate existing legislation making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate or harass a person because of, or for reasons related to, their gender.
The Government did however say that the Equalities Office, together with ACAS and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, will be producing guidelines for employers to address the imposition of controversial workplace dress codes.
The decision not to implement a new law is particularly worthy of note, given that earlier this month, the Canadian Province of British Columbia implemented this exact law.
The initial proposal from Andrew Weaver, Green Party Leader for British Columbia, sought to end all gender-specific dress codes, but the proposal was amended to just high heels.
This decision was made on the basis that forcing women to wear high heels was discriminatory and, most fundamentally, a health and safety issue given that high heels can cause undeniable long term damage to women who wear them on a regular basis.
Many are extremely disappointed with the Government’s decision, however, the publicity this issue has received, together with the proposed guidelines, will at least flag the existing legislation to any offending employers, making them aware of the consequences that discriminatory workplace dress codes can have.
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