COMMONS

High heels and work place dress codes web forum

Have you been made to wear high heels at work? Share your experiences with the Petitions Committee.

The Committee is investigating a petition it received on petition.parliament.uk asking the UK Government and Parliament to: "Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work."

The petition goes on to say:

"It's still legal in the UK for a company to require female members of staff to wear high heels at work against their will. Dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work, if they wish. Current formal work dress codes are out-dated and sexist."

If you've been personally affected by this issue we want to hear from you.

Your experiences will help us understand the problem. It will also give us an idea of how many people this affects and help us to decide what action to recommend to the Government.

When sharing your experiences, please include: 

  • What were the circumstances that led to you being made to wear high heels? For example: what type of work was involved? Were you a permanent or a temporary member of staff? 
  • Did you challenge the requirement? If so, what was the outcome?
  • Did you think that the requirement was reasonable? 
  • What does a reasonable work dress code mean to you?

This forum is now closed. The deadline for comments was 10am Thursday 16 June 2016.

Message to contributors:

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their experiences with us. The Petitions Committee, working with the Women and Equalities Committee, will now hold several 'oral evidence' sessions to continue gathering information on this issue.

You can keep up to date with our work on the inquiry page.

730 Responses to High heels dress codes web forum

Charlotte says:
June 14, 2016 at 05:21 PM
What were the circumstances that led to you being made to wear high heels? For example: what type of work was involved? Were you a permanent or a temporary member of staff? - I was working at a fashion company. At the interview I was told that they prefer girls in heels but it was not a requirement. When I got there, I realised this was a lie. We had to wear heels all day for 8 hours on the shop floor. Going up and down the stairs to the stock room, dealing with customers and standing around. One hour for lunch and a one hour 'heel break' I remember crying in pain for several weeks while my feet got used to wearing heels all the time. I was permeant staff with 8 hours.
Did you challenge the requirement? If so, what was the outcome? There was one time when my feet hurt so much, I was not able to carrying on wearing the heels so I had to take them off. I was then told that I had to put them on or otherwise I would be reported to my manager.
Did you think that the requirement was reasonable? Not at all. We should have had the option to wear heels or not.
What does a reasonable work dress code mean to you? The hight of the heel should not be a reason if you get a bad word from your manager or sent home. You can wear flat shoes and still look smart. The choice should be yours and not anybody else's.

(This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company/employer.)
Sarah says:
June 14, 2016 at 03:28 PM
I would suggest that any such requirement is both sexist and ageist. There is no way I could wear high heels for any length of time now. A smart court shoe is available at low, medium and high heel heights which means employers could be more flexible in their dress code requirements whilst allowing women workers a choice.
Varvara says:
June 14, 2016 at 01:56 PM
I am very thankful that when I was working the dress code was fair, flexible and practical for both sexes. During my working life I had to have an operation on my foot, which resulted in my having to wear flat shoes for the rest of my life. The highest heels I possessed were only 1/2 inch and they had to be given away after the op. I now possess several pairs of smart and dainty flats that complement any smart outfit and would be very suitable for work. I would have been devastated if I had to choose between my job and my health. I watched a documentary about a an airline where female cabin crew were told what make-up to wear. Interestingly, this requirement did not appear to extend to female pilots. I remember thinking that I don't care what shade of lipstick they wear (if any) so long as they give good service. I would have had no problem with wearing a tie to work as I did so from the age of 5 to 18. Until men are required to wear 3 inch heels and make-up as part of the dress code, then women should not be required to do so. Women should not be forced to make a choice between their health and their employment. Surely that any company that does so is blackmailing their employees?
Kathryn Brannigan says:
June 14, 2016 at 01:37 PM
When I worked as a sales assistant at a retailer in Liverpool I was made to wear high heels to work. It was a stipulation of the then area manager at the time. This was despite long days on our feet on the shop floor often standing in one place for hours on end to welcome customers or provide security.

This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company/employer.
Helen says:
June 14, 2016 at 12:35 PM
As an NHS employee, I was not required to wear high heels at work, and never did so. Had it been asked of me, I would have found it totally unacceptable, as I never wear high heels. Flat shoes are more comfortable and kinder to feet. Today there is a huge choice of stylish and smart flat shoes, so high heels should be a personal choice, not a requirement, in the workplace.
London Temp says:
June 14, 2016 at 12:07 PM
I have been temping as a PA for the past year, mostly in the Private Equity sector, and although I have never been explicitly asked to wear heels I know my agency are instructed to tell us to wear them. I have also heard stories about other temps being told they must have clear or light pink nail polish on at all times.

I have also been told that I should wear a dress or skirt to an interview. Personally I don't think any of these requirements are reasonable. I am perfectly capable of wearing flat shoes and trousers and still looking very smart, and able to do just as good a job. A reasonable work dress code will differ according to the company culture, some places are much more casual than others. If a company feels the need to enforce a dress code it should apply to all genders, without specific references to women.

Much of these rules are incredibly outdated and serve absolutely no purpose other than to make women feel uncomfortable. I am appalled that companies are still able to enforce them without breaking the law.
Lucy says:
June 14, 2016 at 12:02 PM
I am required to wear heels at work by my agency as a part-time freelance hostess and promotional team member. I did not challenge the requirement as I needed the work. I understand that the agency strives to retain an image of formality and glamour, but I think that the requirement for 3-inch heels is unreasonable considering the work (which requires standing still and/or walking for long periods of time, often without breaks, in a fast-paced environment). From personal experience, I know that I can perform better at work wearing lower heels (for example 1-1.5 inches) without sacrificing the formal image. For me, a reasonable work dress code means anything required by the employer (for example a uniform, or simply a requirement to dress in a formal style) as long as it does not result in both short-term pain and difficulty and long-lasting health implications for the employee.
Jane Browne says:
June 14, 2016 at 10:10 AM
When I first started teaching in the 1970s we had a fight to allow women to wear trousers to work. I argued then that skirts and heels were impractical and uncomfortable and we won our case. It seems extraordinary that 40 years later women are still being forced to wear shoes that are restricting their movement and damaging their feet and posture.
Jordan Cook says:
June 14, 2016 at 09:20 AM
During my previous employment as an admin assistant when I was 17, I was not allowed to wear flat shoes and was called into the manager's office for unacceptable personal appearance when I did wear flat shoes. I was also chastised for wearing trousers and was told that I should preferably wear skirts. This was despite the other two male members of staff regularly wearing trainers and jeans. Wearing high heels for eight hours a day caused me extreme pain and the pain would often continue during my days off causing me to cancel plans. This ostracisation also made me feel that I was employed as something to look at rather than my ability to do job efficiently.
Fatimah Ishaque says:
June 14, 2016 at 05:12 AM
I previously worked in a coffee shop doing 8 hour long shifts sometimes longer and had to wear heels.

Can you imagine having to stand all day in a pair of heels?

They crush your toes, damage the skin in the back of your heels. They are very uncomfortable