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High heels and workplace dress codes web forum 

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.

Return to the high heels and workplace dress codes inquiry page

730 Contributions (since 08 June 2016)
Closed for contributions

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This web forum is displayed for archive purposes and is no longer accepting public contributions. For queries relating to the content of this web forum, please contact the Petitions Committee.

Total results 730 (page 13 of 73)

Rosin Sayce

10 June 2016 at 21:06

I have not personally been made to wear high heels but I know people who have and the problem is that It causes physically hurts and injures their feet. I think for women's general health and health in the future wearing high heels at work should not be allowed ad should be apart of the health and safety regulations

F H Fisher

10 June 2016 at 21:03

I come at this issue from a sciency point of view.(Mercifully, as a bloke; I have not had to confront this issue personally). However, I have often wondered why- those that wear high healed shoes... do it! It must surely count as a 'neam'[Re: Richard Dawkins: ie a useless, pointless human 'modification'. High heels serve no purpose. Well, perhaps make you a bit taller..(Oh yes! I'm taller than you!). But what about the long term health costs. Surely, the rigors of high heels, are not too far removed from the practice of Chinese foot binding. May I suggest; throw away your high heels and go to your nearest shoe shop. Prepare for bliss! [This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company.]

Shannon Jones

10 June 2016 at 20:53

I worked at an airport where heels were part of the uniform. Certain heels were provided but after wearing them for over 1 hour they cut my feet causing them to bleed and blister to a point where I couldnt touch my feet and hurt me to drive home. I changed my heels and still the same problem. After showing my manager she agreed on some smaller heel for me which were a lot better but still hurt my feet. I then moved to a different company where heels were also part of the uniform. I understand they look presentable but they hurt my feet so much when I was in bed at night the sheets used to irritate my feet where blisters kept heeling then cracking again. The pain is unbearable. I really think they look lovely but for the purpose of my health and feet they are unpractical and very uncomfortable. Especially for people with sensitive feet like myself.

Dasha Tinker

10 June 2016 at 20:37

When I worked for a hotel as a receptionist, I was told my uniform included heels. While this wasn't written in the dresscode booklet I was given, it is what I was told. The 'justification' was so I would be seen over the desk, as it was quite high. I am 5'9, I'm quite tall. There were only two male members of reception taller than me, and there were three who were shorter than me, yet they were not required to wear heels. The hypocrisy was further obvious when I was told I could occasionally wear flats behind the desk if my feet hurt, but I needed to wear heels while rooming guests. Wearing heels had nothing to do with me 'seeing over the desk' and everything to do with image. Eight hour shifts on my feet and I was not interested in wearing heels that whole time.

Heather Oxley

10 June 2016 at 19:45

'Good work is done with what's inside one's head, not with one's appearance'. Thank you Livia- see comment below. I am not a radical and do not generaly 'challenge' dress codes. I fully understand the need for a smart appearance. But have immense trouble seeing how that relates to pain. Perhaps I have always been able to wear shoes that allow me (as a teacher) to walk up and down stairs, move quietly around the classroom and in the corridors. And only once in my life have I been told to wear make up- I refused. All I can offer to this petition is that I am now 54 years old. My last pair of heels above 2cm was at Cambridge in 1983- took them off before the end of the May Ball and decided it was a mugs' game. The last time I wore any make up (apart from one TV appearance in Japan and a couple of stage performances) was the same year. I defy anyone in government or otherwise to claim that with two Masters degrees and a highly demanding and stimulating job in one of the fashion capitals of Europe (Milan) I need to wear heels to prove myself.

Esther Mia Davis

10 June 2016 at 18:02

I haven't had this happen to me because I'm only 10, and sorry if that's wasting anybody's time, but I honestly think it's awful and I hate thinking that something like that could happen. I really want to make it so that anyone can wear anything they choose to (within reason) when they are at work or home or school so I hope it can change and that this might have made it a little better.

Vanessa

10 June 2016 at 18:02

I was working as PSA at an airport last year and i've been terminated because of this issue of high heels. I was forced to stand up for the whole sheet in heels and when I asked to finish the last couple of hours in a flats I was refused. I was forced to leave the job because of unable to finish the shift in heels. I asked to come back with some more comfortable footwear with heels and I was refused sating that the company would not allow me to work in any of their sites in the UK and internationally. That's my experience with this issue [This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company/employer.]

Selina

10 June 2016 at 18:00

I haven't personally been affected by this but feel that if this did happen to me I would feel exactly the same as this poor woman. I work as a receptionist/secretary & am up & down on my feet constantly that is without the walk to & from work every day. I have problems with back pain & having to a wear heels for only half an hour irritates it. Comfortable shoes should be allowed especially when working long hours.

Cate

10 June 2016 at 17:41

My current job allows me to wear flat shoes, but in a previous profession that I worked in (accountancy) the expectation at the time was that I should wear high heels. There is currently strong social pressure on women to wear high heels (whether or not they are forced) in certain professional and social situations because high heels are currently associated with smartness, in the same way that skirts (as opposed to trousers) were previously seen as the only way to be smart. I feel strongly about this because due to my having clinically flat feet and hypermobile ankle joints, it is extremely difficult for me to wear high heels comfortably for any length of time. When I wore them as an accountant, I would get pain during the day and agonising cramps when I stopped wearing them in the evening due to the strain on my feet - when the shoes were removed, my feet would literally curl up with cramp and I would have to force them back into a normal position with my hands to stop the cramping. Also, high shoes of this type often cause painful cuts and blisters on my feet, so I have to bind my feet with sticking plasters to prevent injury and even then still sometimes suffer these injuries. In addition, high heels make it difficult for me to walk long distances and/or walk at full speed. I also tend to trip over more often and have suffered cuts and grazes to my hands and bruised ribs on several occasions due to balance problems - this happens even in flat shoes, but high heels make it more likely that I will become unbalanced and fall or twist my ankle. These injuries are potentially dangerous and even the minor injuries to the feet are risky for anyone who is diabetic and can't easily recover from cuts and blisters on the feet. Even with non-diabetic feet, these injuries can take weeks to heal. Possibly someone with my foot condition could be given an exemption on the grounds of disability - making reasonable adjustments of this type is already required by law under the Disability Equality Act. However, it was many years before I realised this was a clinical condition - my doctor couldn't diagnose it, but professional podiatrists can. Hence, many women with similar conditions may be suffering these adverse effect without realising that they would qualify in this way. Also, it would be better if people with this medical condition could simply wear what was comfortable as of right, rather than having to make a special case for it. Overall, I feel that social perceptions of dress need to change. In a previous job (teaching training), I saw a woman some years ago censored for wearing trousers. Attitudes to this have now changed and smart trousers are acceptable. There is nothing inherently wrong with flat shoes since men wear them and are considered smart. This social perception of smartness can change and should do since the health of women is more important than this social perception.

Livia Trif

10 June 2016 at 17:33

I used to work as a full time receptionist in several restaurants in London. I tried to say to the restaurant manager that working 12h shifts on heels it's not easy, but the answer was "I see, but the heels are part of the uniform." I never found that reasonable. Good work is done with what's inside one's head, not with one's appearance. The most important part of a reasonable work dress code are the comfortable shoes, especially for those who work standing.

Total results 730 (page 13 of 73)