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High heels and workplace dress codes web forum 

Petitions Committee

The Committee is investigating a petition it received on 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.

Return to the high heels and workplace dress codes inquiry page

730 Contributions (since 08 June 2016)
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Total results 730 (page 11 of 73)

Susan Lozynskyj

11 June 2016 at 13:14

When I worked as a Midwife I sometimes was asked to write a letter on behalf or pregnant women advising their employers to allow them to work in flat shoes for their health.

Louise Patzdorf de Oliveira

11 June 2016 at 11:26

I am a postgrad student and have been doing 'temp' work with retail agencies. I have worked at all major department stores in London, in various locations, for numerous brands. Both agencies always require a dress code which most times does not allow for trousers, only skirts or dresses (which is already sexist) and 99% of the time heels are an obligation. It cannot be any heel that you feel comfortable either, it has to be 'court' shoes (no boots or closed shoes allowed). The high of the heel most times it's not specified however they will walk around the store and come check your attire or they have a check-in space where they ask you to come prior to your shift to confirm you are dressed as they want with heels. Most shifts are 8 hours long (1 extra hour for lunch, sometimes for tea break) and it is not permitted to seat, not even for a second, nor lean on counters is also prohibited. We must stand for 8h in heels, sometimes walk to places to pick up stock/products. It is extremely painful because the feet starts swelling and most floors are tiles, easy to slip. It is extremely unfair to deman women to use high heels for any kind of work, but to use heels when you have to stand all day only because luxury brands believe we look "better" or more presentable with heels should be against the law. Specially for roles that do not allow for women to seat. I hope soon we will be protected by the law and can explain that it is unjust to demand women to use painful footwear that will damage our feet, back etc in name of an archaic idea that we should be pretty and heels achieve that. Customer service should and it is not based on appearances, it is about attitude and communication and expertise, not about clothes, shoes and lipstick. Women should be respected to dress in a way that makes them comfortable in their own skin and accepted and embraced by their employers for their intellectual capacity and not physical appearance. [This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company/employer.]

Caroline Tovey

11 June 2016 at 11:24

I've not been asked to wear high heels in the work place, which is just as well because I cannot physically do it. However, I have been told that I had to wear make up and straighten my hair when I was working abroad. I was shocked to find it was still legal to do similar things in the UK. Most men resent wearing ties, which I can understand but what was really shocking to me was the number of male colleagues who relished the personal nature of me being pulled up on my appearance in this way. If the government really wants to support women progressing in the workplace, they need to show it by taking this power away from employers. Being told I needed to wear make up really undermined my confidence and this doesn't actually have a negative impact on a person's health, which we know high heels do.


11 June 2016 at 11:19

My former employer made all female staff wear heels and enforced this by drafting a uniform policy. When I refused to wear them I was repeatedly told my uniform was not of an acceptable standard. It was unnecessary as I sat behind a teller window and the only people who saw my shoes were my female colleagues and my male boss. A few of my colleagues fell and injured themselves because they were not used to wearing high heels. My boss also tried to force us to wear skirts and made comments on a daily basis about our bodies. While I understand that businesses need staff to appear smart and professional this outdated policy allows for blatant sexism in the workplace.


11 June 2016 at 10:26

Due to my company's policy of wearing heels, I have just undergone extremely painful bunion surgery and have had to take two months off work. It will be approx. 6 months until all the swelling subsides. I do not wear heels outside of work as I am quite tall and have never felt the need to. My job entails standing most of the day but no-one can actually see my feet. I did explain to my manager that my enforced footwear was causing me pain but I was not allowed to wear flat shoes as it was against company policy. On a couple of occasions I did wear flatter shoes but was called in by the manager and reprimanded with the threat of a disciplinary warning. I am now dreading returning to work as I do not know how on earth I can get any shoes on let alone heels.

Julie Guy

11 June 2016 at 09:13

I am not affected by this however would like it to be considered that most employers view high heels as against health and safety guidance due to direct impact on manual handling and moving safely around the work environment and due to the longer term impact on health.


11 June 2016 at 06:52

In the 1990's I worked for a major retailer and the dress code was formal court shoes, not flats. Whilst at that time I was OK with it, I was only 30 at the time, I have in recent years had a serious spinal operation and can now only wear non high heeled shoes - in fact some days I actually need the support of a sport shoe (trainer - always clean, and smart,and mainly hidden by my trousers anyway). My surgeon told me that I should not wear heels and he reiterated that the posture created by women's shoes is very bad, and in fact a man's style of shoe is actually most suitable. I would therefore not be able to take a job such as that I used to do, should I need or want to change jobs. At this stage I am lucky as my employer understands my requirements. I believe the law should be changed and should include some provision for someone like me who also may need to wear alternative footwear. My shoes (or other clothes) do not change how I do my job. I do often meet clients as well and none have had an issue with my feet.


11 June 2016 at 01:26

I'm a student who is nervous about going into the world of work. When searching for jobs to apply for i noticed many work places said they required dress codes, and going into the places of work i noticed all women in heels and with make up. I cannot walk in heels what so ever, i have issues with my feet causing me to struggle balancing when in heels. This limits the places i can work at as i know i cannot reach expectations required. Unfortunately many work places don't officially state that a woman has to wear make up and heels but that they dress "appropriately" which often just so happens to be wearing make up and heels and they tend to use this method to disguise their discrimination.


11 June 2016 at 01:05

As cabin crew for a major airline, I have to wear high heeled shoes for all my ground duties. I have to purchase them myself but the style and heel height is dictated by my uniform rules. After a hip injury which has affected my posture, I found it painful to tilt my hip in the way that is necessary while wearing these shoes but I and all of my colleagues are forbidden to substitute flat shoes in this situation. If they are necessary, we are not allowed to continue to work as cabin crew and must find other work in a less visible capacity. This is unfair and does not apply to our male colleagues.


10 June 2016 at 23:16

I worked for a temp agency that supplies waitstaff to high-end hotels. Many of the hotels required high-heels at least four inches high for any female staff. The temp agency recommended a specific shoe store for these; the shoes available were made of actual cardboard and my feet bled every night for the first week. The only people allowed to wear flats were 1) men, and 2) women who had a notarised doctor's certificate confirming that high-heeled shoes had injured their feet to the point that wearing them any more would pose a heath risk. For some reason this was seen as fair and equitable. The "professional appearance" argument never sat well with me either; half your waitstaff staggering around on bleeding, permanently-disfigured feet is not what you'd call a professional image.

Total results 730 (page 11 of 73)