A 27-year old woman has recently claimed that she turned up for work wearing flat shoes on her first day as a corporate receptionist for a City accountancy firm, only to be told that she had two choices – be sent home without pay, or go buy a pair of heels between two and four inches high.
Nicola Thorp says that she was laughed at by bosses, and has since set up an online petition which has attracted over 100,000 signatures. This means that the issue will be considered in Parliament for debate.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about these events isn’t that they happened (because let’s face it, sexism is often still a very real issue in workplaces), but that the business in question wasn’t actually breaking the law.
Employers in the UK are within their rights to dismiss a member of staff if they fail to adhere to ‘reasonable’ dress code standards, and different codes of dress for men and women are still permitted. Though the legislation doesn’t explicitly address high heels, and is open to interpretation, it’s not possible to say that the accountancy firm was flouting their legal responsibilities.
But let’s forget about the law for a second, and apply a little bit of common sense. High heels can be uncomfortable, even painful, and have zero impact on anyone’s ability to do their job. If you’re asking your female staff to turn up to work wearing anything other than a formal shoe, or if necessary, safety footwear, then now’s the time to seriously rethink your practices.
Ditch the outdated requirements, and bring your business into the 21st century. Not because they might soon become illegal, but because it’s the right thing to do.
If you’re concerned about the impact that old people policies and practices could have on your business, now’s the time to take action. We can review your full HR agenda, identify any potential issues, and make sure that you’re firmly on the right track. Get in touch today with TheHuman Resource, the small business HR consultancy, on 07884 475303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation chat.