Can your boss really make you to wear high heals? Your rights explained
I’ve been frankly shocked this week by the revelation that 27-year-old Nicola Thorp was effectively fired for refusing to wear heels on her first day as a corporate receptionist.
It’s almost a century since women in the UK first got the vote, and getting on for 50 years since the equal pay act.
Yet it seems to me that gender equality in the workplace is still stuck in the last century when women are effectively forced to wear potentially damaging footwear.
Should employers be able to sack you for wearing the wrong shoes?
Read more: What you can and can’t be fired on the spot for
Fortunately, the balance of public opinion seems to agree. Ms Thorp’s agency employers say they are now reviewing their policy, while PWC, the accountancy firm where she was contracted, say the dress code policy was not theirs anyway.
There’s even an e-petition on the government’s website gathering serious pace (more than 125,000 signatures at the time of writing) that’s calling for corporate dress codes that insist on high heels to be banned.
And that’s the source of the problem – companies can tell employees how to dress at work and they can fire employees who don’t meet ‘reasonable’ demands. So exactly what are your rights, and what can your company make you do?
Read more: High heels dress code company in policy u-turn after anger over woman sent home for wearing flat shoes
While your company can require you to dress in a particular way, these demands must be ‘reasonable’ (an ambiguous word if ever I heard one), and you must be given enough time to buy the correct gear.
If a company wishes to take action against you, it must give you formal warnings and reasonable time to comply before taking any drastic action like dismissal.
Read more: Are you owed £140 for your work clothes? Millions are but almost no one claims it
Interestingly, under UK law it is perfectly acceptable for companies to have differing dress policies for men and women as long as they are of ‘equivalent’ smartness levels. And also provided that a policy doesn’t treat either gender less favourably.
Where a differing dress code policy can come undone is if there is any hint of sexism. If a code is set up because there are certain expectations of clients, then it is hard to argue, but if it is because, for example, high heels ‘look nice’, then you might reasonably be able to fight it.
There are also health worries – it is well documented that wearing high heels for long periods can cause back pain, ankle problems and tight calves.
Let James help you complain @resolvercouk and via resolver.co.uk