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 Empson says:
June 14, 2016 at 11:36 PM
I was working for a department store in the early '90's, when it existed and I was a student as a zero hours shop assistant. I was asked to wear heels, my job involved walking around the store and standing for hours. I objected and said I didn't see why I needed to wear them, we settled on low heel court shoes. I don't even really think they should be able to insist on that - flat brogue shoes should be an option if someone wants- as well as trousers for women.

(This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company/employer.)
Laura25 says:
June 14, 2016 at 11:23 PM
I work in the luxury cosmetics trade (department stores- makeup &I fragrance etc) and more brands than not require high heels for ladies as uniform. We work 8-9 hour days on our feet not to mention most stores require lots of walking up & down stairs, I regularly find myself carrying boxes up and down stairs still wearing ridiculous shoes. Of course males that work in the industry don't have any such ruling. I've tried arguing in the past but you are told unless you have a medical reason it's a 'non-negotiable'. Not only is it archaic and unfair, uncomfortable but it has been proven for years that wearing heels causes damage to the feet, back and joints not to mention it's just more dangerous. A colleague of mine has recently returned to work after having a baby and even so the rules are not flexible. It needs to be changed now.
Louise says:
June 14, 2016 at 10:18 PM
I work for a high end retail company & we are required in our uniform guidelines to wear heels for 8hr shifts between 11-close & all sales assistants on 4hr shifts are also required to wear them. In the past, my feet have been left to bleed & covered in blisters & I've spent a fortune on different shoes to try & find a comfy pair. It's got the point now where I refuse to wear unless higher management are coming to our store as I would rather serve the customers being able to walk & smile without feeling in pain!
Ann Simpson says:
June 14, 2016 at 10:00 PM
I signed this petition, not because I have ever been required to wear high heels as part of a dress code, but rather because I never wish to be in the situation where an employer can claim that it is legitimate to require me to do so. I also signed the petition as a way to support those women who have been required to do so, and have been penalised as a consequence of refusing to comply with this unreasonable requirement. The fact that I have not been 'personally affected' in the way that the phrasing of this request for comments implies does not mean I should not comment on it but rather that I should count myself as fortunate not to have been in the situation described. A requirement for women to wear heels as part of a work uniform or under a dress code is arbitrary and when only applied to one sex (women) is both sexist and discriminatory, and any attempt to argue an 'equivalent smartness' requirement for men does not hold up to scrutiny. Putting heels on a pair of shoes does not equate to smartness, nor is there any compelling reason why a woman employee should have to wear heeled shoes as part of a dress code. Flat shoes can be smart - many are - therefore if an employer has a dress code which requires 'smart dress' it is perfectly possible for this to be achieved by women without them wearing heels. Once again, I would point out that there is no equivalent requirement for men to wear heeled shoes in order to meet the 'smart dress' requirement. Relying on 'smart dress' as a justification for why this should apply to women only is a fallacy, as in reality, an insistence that women wear heels is nothing to do with smartness and everything to do with a societal expectation that women should look a particular way. A reasonable work dress code should be capable of treating all employees equitably and without causing disadvantage (physical, societal, economic etc) to any gender; by all means organisations should be able to state that 'smart dress' applies to all its employees, but to equate smart dress with a woman wearing heels, and to go beyond that and insist that in order to remain employed a woman must wear those heels, is unacceptable in this country. It is 2016, not 1916.
L says:
June 14, 2016 at 09:39 PM
It's important to pay attention to rules for most luxury brands retailers. Furtehrmore high heels are required even in ZERO HOURS contracts of temporary work agencies. You should go and visit some of the most commented sectors and check that this is reality for a huge number of women in UK. What includes me. Thanks.
Emma Harding says:
June 14, 2016 at 08:42 PM
I work in the hotel industry and was recently given a new dress code. Females and males have different rules. The female code states no ballet style pumps to be worn and no shoes with laces. When I questioned this to ask exactly whether a structured flat shoe could be worn I was told that all females had to wear heels. Although I work in the sales office, I am on my feet for long periods of time during appointments, open evenings and busy functions so it is not comfortable to wear heels. Also, I have to buy shoes in a Mary Jane style as I find it hard to keep them on my feet otherwise. I had to go out and buy a new pair of shoes as previously I had alternated between a sturdy flat pair and a pair of brogues with heels however I was told I couldn't wear these either as they were lace up. I really feel for those employees who work in food and beverage who are stood up the majority of their shifts.
Maria says:
June 14, 2016 at 08:27 PM
I have never been made to wear high heels, but would be unable to do so as I am a diabetic, and unable to, due to a medical point of view.
Christina green says:
June 14, 2016 at 07:52 PM
Yes all female staff had to wear 2 inch heal at my previous job most weekends I worked a minimum of 12 hours on my feet running wedding and I think this is completely wrong I could b forced to work up to 16 hours in heals and I now have corns on my feet from were I constantly had blisters.
stephanie says:
June 14, 2016 at 07:01 PM
in my job i have to wear heels,and the men can wear smart black shoes, if i want to wear smart black flat shoes i would need a medical letter.
in this day and age women should be able to have the same rights to men
Angela Shairp says:
June 14, 2016 at 06:13 PM
This is really quite simple. Employers have a duty of care to their employees under health and safety legislation. Clearly requiring women to wear high heels which are a well-known hazard is a breach of that duty. I am surprised no-one has tested this in court.