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 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

GD says:
June 13, 2016 at 11:21 AM
I'm a permanent member of staff working as front of house for a corporate company. High heels were an obligatory part of the contract with specific descriptions of heel inches and material. Make up, nails and hair were also mentioned in the contract - with very detailed specifications. We were made to wear these for 9 hours a day and the day consisted of standing for clients, walking the floors and moving furniture.

I never challenged the requirement as when I first joined I was told my shoes were not appropriate, the material was suede and not leather, so I knew it wouldn't be possible to ask to wear flats.

Myself and my colleagues were never happy with the requirement especially as we were moving heavy pieces of furniture on a daily basis.

A reasonable dress code for me would mean looking smart, presentable and approachable. High heels should not even factor into this as how do they affect your capabilities to do your job? If men are able to do the exact same role in smart flat shoes, why can't women?
Eva Hay says:
June 13, 2016 at 11:00 AM
I have had bad feet since a young age, my feet simply can't take it. Heels cause my feet to cramp. No longer working in an office. I have never been forced to wear high heels but feel great sympathy for those under pressure to do so.
Chris says:
June 13, 2016 at 10:51 AM
I am a man so have not been directly affected by a requirement to wear high heels but I know people whose feet have been damaged by wearing high heeled shoes. Personally I don't like to see women in high heels - I think it makes them look awkward and not "smart" or more attractive and I know that they are likely to be causing damage. Surely health and safety legislation obliges employers to minimise harm to employees, so insisting on potentially damaging and unnecessary "uniform" items should be illegal.
Nola says:
June 13, 2016 at 10:40 AM
I have worked for a company for 6 years with lots of experience in several sites I was contracted to. The company has rules on what to wear, which is given to you when you join the company and you are expected to adhere and you are inspected vigorously by managers onsite. The handbook includes how your should wear make-up, hair, dress and shoes which must be court and over 2 inches. Most work as a corporate receptionist involves being on your feet; meeting and greeting guests, coat check, accompanying guests to meeting rooms, room checks, and standing in reception as security does to meet and greet. I have challenged the dress requirements on two occasions - when I have been in a job where we would have to alternate standing for an hour and then sit taking turns, at least 3 hours of standing minimum. This was looked at as non negotiable.I also challenged this policy when I was pregnant. I was not given a direct answer and also I was having to sit on a bar stool all day. I requested to move to another more lenient site where most of the day was seated check-ins.I absolutely couldn't believe how the company had no concern for pregnant woman. I chose to take maternity leave early as it made me feel very pressured to continue working under these conditions.
Loretta O'Brien says:
June 13, 2016 at 09:48 AM
There shoud.not be a requirement to wear highheel shoes. There are plenty of dressy flat heeled shoes to choose from.
Maddy says:
June 13, 2016 at 09:36 AM
Part of my uniform requirement is to wear heeled court shoes. We were told specifically no flat shoes and was not open for discussion. I had a fall recently in a kitchen area at a washstand. (Which apparently was checked after my fall and declared area was bone dry) not. I have one disc slightly dislodged in lower back. I have sciatica at the moment. My opinion is it shouldn't matter if flat or court shoe is worn as a women it doesn't make you do your job any better or less. I think it's very sexist and takes away as a women your right to wear what shoe suits you. Not everyone likes heels all the time and depending your job description flats are more appropriate at times. You wouldn't insist a man wears heels unless of course it's his chosen style of shoe and would companies allow men staff to wear them considering their company image!!

Why does a women have to wear heels ? It has personally effected me.

It's demeaning to any women/man and I thought times have moved on to equality. If we do have equality then women should insist men wear at least a Cuban heel to work or a court shoe? See how it feels to walk in our shoes, I don't think it would last long. The choice should be the women's choice not insisted upon by male or female powers to be it's done just for an asphetical point without consideration to who is wearing them. Even worse is that it's not paid for as a part of your uniform.

It should be banned.
Nicola Anderson says:
June 13, 2016 at 09:25 AM
I am lucky that in my current role the dress code is simply smart, casual for both genders, a sensible, even handed approach I would suggest and an eminently reasonable one in that it allows the individual to make sensible judgements about what is or is not acceptable depending on the nature of the customer/client visit being made.

In previous roles however, I have experienced pressure from -I'm afraid - mostly male employers who seem to still immediately interpret "smart" dress in a woman as including pencil skirts and high heels. Now I am over 6ft tall and have always found that the addition of high heels means that I can be seen as a somewhat looming presence when appearing at the side of a customers desk. They are also incredibly uncomfortable in a role which requires a lot of travelling around between clients.
Lesley says:
June 12, 2016 at 10:22 PM
I was advised by an employer in finance that 'the only women who wear flat shoes are hippies and lesbians, not professional women'! This was challenged over sexism but as I am married it was deemed to be an 'acceptable' joke. There is a misconception that suits & smart work dresses can only be worn with heels. I still refuse to wear heels over 1" as I am 5'9" and do not need the extra height but also because they are grossly uncomfortable and I cannot move quickly whilst wearing them. They are an added risk factor when working late and/or using public transport. Damage to feet is not reversible. I now buy smart low-heeled shoes and fortunately am senior enough that I can resist attempts to make me wear heels.

This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company.]
Claire Hickey says:
June 12, 2016 at 10:21 PM
I am a physiotherapist and although I myself have never been forced to wear high heels in the work place, I have had many patients who have. Many women who are recovering from hip surgery, knee surgery and sprained or broken ankles who have confided in me that they have come home from work in sever pain and even in tears as they feel pressured to wear high heels in their place of work.
Alexandra Nieto says:
June 12, 2016 at 09:49 PM
I was working in a bar as a receptionist/hostess. According the management, while it was part of the uniform to wear high heels, so was wearing flat formal shoes, written in the contract. We had to do 10 hour shifts. The opening receptionist would'nt be required to wear heels until midday when the Lunchtime service starts, but the receptionists coming in at midday were required to wear heels all day. We would always push for a break from the heels between the lunch and dinner service. But we would then be required to put them back on at 5pm and were not allowed under any circumstances to take them off.
Not only were we required to wear heels for 8 hours, we also had to stand as there were no chairs behind the reception desk. We also had to show guests to their tables, and take their belonging to the cloackroom which was really just a back area on the other side of the room. There were no male receptionists, so We were required to take heavy bags in our heels to the other side of the room, which was always difficult.
During the shift, after 3 hours, my feet would begin to hurt but sometimes it was bearable pain. After several hours, my feet would hurt so badly that I couldn't think staright from the pain and wouldn't even know what a customer would be saying due to only being able to focus on the pain in my feet.
We would also be required to work downstairs at the lifts area controlling the people coming in, having to walk up and down very long queues, informing people they were not allowed to come into the venue if they were wearing trainers/flip flops and not dressed to the bar's standards.
This task being hard as we had to walk up and down the queue in heels.
I also challenged these rules of having to wear heels, especially when the pain would be unbearable where you really just can't think staright. The response from the head receptionist at the time was 'but you have to wear them because they are uniform.' To which I said, 'and so are flat shoes'. After that she and the Reception manager took a huge disliking towards me, where they tried to find ways to get rid of me. But I left on my own accord due to study reasons.

[This post has been edited by the moderator to remove the name of a specific company/employer.]