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

Claire says:
June 13, 2016 at 11:00 PM
I am a nurse and one of the reasons I am grateful for my choice of career is that although we had to wear uniform shoes - they were flat formal shoes which were comfortable and protected our feet. I consider that forcing women to wear high heals for an extended period can be likened to the Chinese practice of foot binding- done because small feet in women were seen as attractive, but happily no longer practiced. Feet play an important part in mobility and these days there is a need to keep people as mobile as possible for as long as possible. We should be ensuring that employers do not indulge in practices that are damaging to foot health and if that means legislation then so be it. Had employers been more sensible and accommodating then legislation would not be necessary.
linzi craig says:
June 13, 2016 at 10:57 PM
It is my companies policy that I have a minimum of a 1 1/2 heel on at all times.
Even during busy periods we are expected to be in heels, since we stand and serve for 9 hours a day in heels with no consideration to how painful our feet, back and hips get, I feel that heels should be a CHOICE and not a requirement.
Sally says:
June 13, 2016 at 09:40 PM
In my first job after university in the early 1980's two young, female colleagues of mine at one of the "Big Four" High Street banks were told a) to go home and change out of trousers and back into a skirt b) to wear makeup at work to suit their graduate trainee position. That's obviously a long time ago but let's make sure we never go back to those days. Smart is smart and tatty is tatty but forcing women to wear makeup, heels and uncomfortable garb is something quite different.
charleyfarley says:
June 13, 2016 at 09:31 PM
I work in luxury retail where almost all companies require their female sales associates to wear heels. My particular company requires stilletos of at least 3 inches! I feel it is ridiculous, sexist and largely unfair to impose these conditions on women. I stand for 8 hours a day in heels. I am only allowed to wear flats if I have a foot injury. I am a permanent member of staff and I have never challenged the requirement for fear of creating hostility within my workplace.
I do not feel it is reasonable to require female employees to wear heels at work. Of course it is important to look smart and well kept but this can be done wearing smart, flat shoes too. The idea that women must wear heels to look smart or sophisticated is outdated and feeds sexism and gender inequality not only in the workplace, but in our day to day lives.
Helen says:
June 13, 2016 at 09:06 PM
I worked at a consulting engineering firm in London and our team secretary/receptionist was told she must wear heels. The job involved greeting visitors, setting up meetings and day to day running of the office. She always looked professional in a suit and flat shoes. I couldn't believe this was something that management could stipulate! We have both now left the company due to outdated attitudes of senior management (who were all of a certain demographic - over 50 and male)
Jo says:
June 13, 2016 at 08:11 PM
Hello, I worked as a temporary sales assistance for an agency between 2008-2010. We had to wear skirts and at least a 2 inch high heel shoe, also full face make up and red lipstick; all of these requirements even if for that day we were working in the stock room. Shifts were 8/9 hours and required standing through out. There was no option to wear a flat shoe, trousers or less makeup; if you did you were sent home with no pay and unlikely to be booked again. One woman came to work with dyed hair and the agency removed her from their books. Every shift we worked, a person from the agency was onsite to check our appearance, clothes, make up, shoes etc. The agency were 'entitled' to ask us to change our clothes (and they would charge you for clothes they had to hand) or put make up on you. If you did not consent to this you went home with no pay. I do not believe any of this was reasonable. The pay was around £9 an hour and never increased over the 3/4 years. We got no allowance/pay for work clothes. Dress codes and requirements became more extreme: in 2008 women could wear trousers but this quickly changed to woman not being permitted to wear trousers at any time. A reasonable work code should mean considering someone for a work position based on their skills; what these work codes are doing is allowing employers to chose staff based on their looks.
Ann-Marie Wilson says:
June 13, 2016 at 07:31 PM
I have worked in HR in blue chip companies, the City, overseas and in the NGO & charity sectors. In the 80's and '90's there was a dress code in one company I worked at for over 3 years. Elsewhere heels were expected if not actually stipulated. Often women were also expected to wear skirts. It is time to change these policies that are inappropriate for many with disabilities.
Julie says:
June 13, 2016 at 07:24 PM
I work for a new homes builder/developer and wear a uniform at work. We have been told to only wear shoes with a 1 and 1/2" heel or higher. This does not allow me to wear formal flat shoes. I have also been told to wear a minimum amount of makeup, to which I object.
Wendy says:
June 13, 2016 at 06:19 PM
I'm absolutely astounded that this is even an issue and that requiring women to wear high heeled shoes is not automatically a case of sexual discrimination; when I first read about the case which started all this off I was sure it wasn't going to be anywhere in the UK, surely we're more enlightened than that? Apparently not. I've read a lot of the comments posted here and honestly it sounds as though we're stuck in the seventies - it's disgusting that employers are still allowed to make women work in pain because of some outdated idea of what looks professional. I've never been required to wear heels though when I was younger I did so out of choice, now I'm older my feet are deformed because of them to the point where I find enclosed toes, let alone heels, uncomfortable (and I must add I never wore them for eight or more hours a day every day). Yes, that was my choice but it appears that many women are having this forced upon them and unless the situation changes many of them will face quite serious problems in later life. How can this be legally acceptable? How can managers be allowed to respond to complaints of aching, bloody feet, numb toes and back ache with comments like 'It's company policy, if you don't like it work somewhere else'?
And I know the question raised is that of high heels but I really hope that the issue of make-up is addressed too. Women are not, or should not be, employed to 'look attractive', the conditions for employing a woman should be the same as those for employing a man and women should not be obliged to either wear uncomfortable shoes or apply make-up (at some considerable cost both to their wallet and sometimes their skin) just because it's deemed by some to look more professional.
Ode Bel says:
June 13, 2016 at 05:53 PM
Dear Sirs,
I am taking part of the survey as I was forced to wear high heels back a few years ago (6 to be precise).
I was retail shop floor and the brand I was working for had a strict dress code policy including high heels. I thought at the beginning that it looked chic and sexy in a way but quickly the dream I had in mind turned out been a nightmare. It was very painful at all levels: the toes, the ankle and the back. When I was going home, I had to sit on any public transports (bus, tube, train) I was taking despite being young enough to stand on my feet. When I was on the shop floor I could not wait until it was my lunch break to be able to sit to relax my spine and feet. After a year and a half, my toes changed of shapes. When I was going out, I could not stay more than one hour on my feet neither on heels or on flat. When I stopped retail shop floor after almost two years, it took me more than a year to recover. After the recovering time, I was able again to wear occasionally heels on a night out or at work. Each time I see shop floor staff on heels now, it reminds me the hard time I went through and I am glad I left retail. I am now free to practise sport again, wear heels time to time and not to worry about back and feet pain.

I did request to change the shoes after explaining that my feet were my tool of work. I wanted to swap the heels for smart black shoes but it got declined. A work colleague went to the doctor to have a note saying she must wear flat. I did not go up to this point but I resigned partly because of the dress code.
The requirement was unreasonable to my opinion as the feet are the tool of work for some professions.

A reasonable dress code means comfortable to be. If the person is not comfortable in any sense, then the work cannot be done properly as the focus will not be on the job but on the feeling of the body.