High heels dress code row prompts parliamentary petition for law change

Publication: CIPD HR Inform

A recent news story involving a receptionist sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels has put workplace dress codes in the spotlight.

Nicola Thorpe was employed as a temporary receptionist through an outsourcing agency, Portico, whose dress code required women to wear a two-to-four-inch heeled shoe. When she arrived at work in flat shoes, she was told she would need to go and buy an ‘appropriate’ pair of heeled shoes or be sent home without pay. She complained that the dress code was discriminatory since her male colleagues were allowed to work in flat shoes.

Her arguments appear to have struck a chord with people across the UK: a petition asking for a change in the law to enable women to wear flat formal shoes at work has gained over 130,000 signatories. While requiring female employees to wear heeled shoes to work is undoubtedly controversial, is it actually unlawful?

Most organisations have some kind of a dress code and can generally exercise a wide discretion in determining what the code says. However…

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