MNHQ here: Have you been made to wear high heels at work?

(120 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-Jun-16 10:07:09


Parliament's Petitions Committee has been in touch to ask whether MNers would like to feed in to its investigation into women being required to wear high heels at work.

The investigation is in response to a petition on the Parliament website asking the government to 'make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work'. The petition has had nearly 150,000 signatures, and as a result the petitions committee is going to look into the matter more thoroughly.

This is what they say:

"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?"

"Please note that the user name you choose will appear with your comment. Please do not name specific companies/employers in your post."

If you prefer, you can respond directly to the Committee via this link.


OP’s posts: |
YourPerception Thu 09-Jun-16 10:40:42

I received the email and am so pleased there is an inquiry.

vEGANvERA Thu 09-Jun-16 11:01:18

I've never been made to but it was suggested in a general conversation very recently (that i imagine was aimed at me lol) that it was a "suit and heels" meeting!
i did "dress up" as expected (not that i wouldn't have, i'm a mid 40 year old professional with director level experience, i just don't do heels!)

ironically the people I then met with where having a "dress down day"

interesting debate that in 2016 a pair of heels is necessary work wear

BitOutOfPractice Thu 09-Jun-16 11:01:48

While I think it is outrageous to ask women to wear heels to work, it seems extraordinary to me that they are getting into a lather about this when there are so many other issues around discrimination and inequality every day that seem to be ignored. Is it because it was in the Daily Mail?

KatieKaboom Thu 09-Jun-16 11:07:41

Yes. In a law firm. I was a clerk and I had the option of making it a permanent position but elected not to for reasons wholly unrelated to attire.

No, I didn't challenge it because high heels do not have to be spindly stilettos; many are very comfortable as well as smart-looking. It did not strike me as an unreasonable requirement.

The men also had to wear certain uncomfortable items of clothing (tightly knotted ties, jackets) and my feeling was that the women had more freedom; a smart casual dress was acceptable and we were not confined to suits. Men were also discouraged from having anything but short hair.

I believe in freedom of contract and moreover don't consider dress code requirements, including those relating to footwear, to constitute discrimination.

dodobookends Thu 09-Jun-16 11:07:45

Is it because it was in the Daily Mail? No I don't think so - I've read stuff elsewhere about it.

People are getting a 'lather' about it because it is discriminatory and often painful.

Cuntikins Thu 09-Jun-16 11:16:51

FFS, people can be pissed off about more than one thing. Being outraged about sexist and discriminatory issues like this doesn't preclude being more outraged about (say) wars or poverty elsewhere.

How do you think big changes happen over time if not incremental "tiny things changing"?


Step Thu 09-Jun-16 11:32:45

FFS she was a temp on a day's contract. IF the company asks me to wear a pink spotted jumper I'd have bought one if that is their dress code - is it any different to blokes being made to wear a tie?

EveryoneElsie Thu 09-Jun-16 11:38:27

Of course heels are different from a tie.
Many people cannot walk in them. Not even sensible heels. For many reasons relating to physical health, such as knee ligament issues, or osteo arthritis.
And they are very bad for your posture, knees and spine.

WTF is wrong with people complaining about this petition? Go away if you dont think it an issue.

EBearhug Thu 09-Jun-16 11:39:10

The only time I have been told about footwear is to wear boots, and in one case steel toe-capped boots. (We will quietly gloss over the time in a datacentre when I dropped a server on my bare toes, because I should have been wearing footwear , but it was a hot day, and... I bruised, but fortunately, nothing worse.)

I suspect if I were to wear heels when doing physical datacentre work, I'd be told they were unsuitable. Never really thought about it, because my own common sense says no. Most of our safety training has focused on working at height (up ladders) and precautions when removing floor tiles to work under the raised floor. And not to look into a fibre cable in case it's in use.

I think dress codes for shoes should be concerned with safety, i.e. whether you need rubber soles, steel toe caps, covered toe, etc, and maybe colour. There should be provision to allow people with foot or ankle or other joint conditions to continue working, if footwear is the only thing stopping them, e.g. allow people to wear trainers while in recovery. You can get smart flat shoes as well as heeled shoes, so there should never be a requirement to insist on people wearing heels of a certain height. (I think podiatrists tend to advise a low heel rather than none.)

quasibex Thu 09-Jun-16 11:43:31

I was previously strongly encouraged to wear heels in my job (at the time training delivery for a blue chip) and a colleague was actually disciplined because her shoes were not appropriate smart office wear (they were smart leather flats).

Fortunately the company has moved on from those days although I didn't challenge it at the time despite having a permanent contract as I felt quite vulnerable in my position as the youngest female on the team.

From a personal perspective I cannot wear heels of any height. After a bad accident my ankle was smashed to pieces and no matter how much other women may think a small heel can be comfortable to wear they literally have no idea what it's like to walk in my shoes for a day.

From a smartness and dress code perspective all that's required are smart shoes that work in harmony with the rest of the dress code. If formal suits and shirts/blouses are required then court shoes of some form would be perfectly reasonable (with or without a heel) likewise if smart casual then anything that doesn't look like trainers would be suitable.

Everyday sexism can still be a massive problem and although this seems small in the grand scale of things it is still a shocking state of affairs for a modern workplace to make a woman's job and professional reputation at risk because of the height of her shoes.

Naturally there could be industry exceptions for example catwalk modelling where the actual job is to show off a designers wares...but working at a bank, or hospital or office cannot possibly justify a non sexist reason for enforcing a high heel on a person.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-Jun-16 12:03:39


While I think it is outrageous to ask women to wear heels to work, it seems extraordinary to me that they are getting into a lather about this when there are so many other issues around discrimination and inequality every day that seem to be ignored. Is it because it was in the Daily Mail?

In this particular case it's because Parliament has to respond to petitions on its website that get a certain number of signatures - which this one did (measure of strength of public feeling I guess!)

OP’s posts: |
SirChenjin Thu 09-Jun-16 12:15:31

Got this email this morning - so pleased that Parliament are looking into this and that there are enough sensible people out there questioning a ridiculous, outdated, sexist policy. Baby steps (in shoes of your choosing grin)

Mrscog Thu 09-Jun-16 12:29:30

* is it any different to blokes being made to wear a tie?*

Yes completely different, ties may be uncomfortable but they don't directly cause health problems. The wearing of high heels can cause all manner of musculoskeletal issues. Would you accept your business telling you that you must smoke/drink/eat trans fats if you worked there?

Also, I would have thought there is some illegality under the equality act as some people may have disabilities which make it not possible for them to wear heels.

something2say Thu 09-Jun-16 12:32:21

I think it comes down to this.
Women didn't use to work, so had no money or power or influence. Their only power had to do with their looks - hence women are still judged by their looks - in a male dominated world where men get to choose what we should look like, to please them and to get them to like us so that we can feed our babies.
Now we don't need men to give us money so we don't have to find ourselves pleasing to them. We can actually be women, human beings in our own right, without regard to what men think we should be.

The requirement to look a certain way is outdated to me. Smart yes, high heels no. I think that is unreasonable.

Old school may hark back to that - get a grip. Times are changing.

I also think that ties etc are hated by men and fine by me, but its not as bad as what we face and it never will be as bad as what we face, because males do not have a social history of control and marginalisation behind them from women. We do, from them.

chanice Thu 09-Jun-16 12:37:45

Stop comparing it to wearing a tie!
I wore a tie from age 11 to 15 in school. It is totally different.

ThisPanCan Thu 09-Jun-16 12:39:50

Mrscog - we've used this a couple of times re other issues, that the Eq. Act is simply not being enforced.

Is it like making a bloke wear a tie? Erm..massively so.

I'm at work now, bloke, wearing DMs and cargo trousers. The very thought that a female colleague may be 'forced' to wear heels against her wish would demand action.

And hi there Rowan - long time no hear! Hope all is well with you.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 09-Jun-16 12:42:02

I think it is reasonable for a company to have any dress policy they like as long as it is equally stringent for both men and women, and as long as it isn't harmful

Wearing (any) heels is harmful, and there is no way it should be allowed to be a requirement.

StVincent Thu 09-Jun-16 12:42:55

You know what, this has just conjured up memories of a previous job. Day to day the dress code for everyone was casual (or smart for a client meeting) as it was a "creative" business.

But when they had a couple of big days when clients and other potentials were coming in, the youngest women in the office - regardless of job - were ordered to come in on those days "looking pretty, in heels". We were required to stand at the front door and welcome people in, basically just be window dressing angry. Wearing heels and standing up for a long day was crap, very painful feet and I got stiff legs the next day too - not used to wearing heels.

That's leaving aside the massively shitty nature of getting everyone from HR people to accountants and producers to stand around pretending to be "hostesses" on the basis of our sex.

ThisPanCan Thu 09-Jun-16 12:47:27

"Is it like making a bloke wear a tie? Erm..massively so. "

Just what? Don't you mean 'massively not so?'

Yes blush thanks for correcting me.

S'okay. You're welcome.

Rainbowzippy Thu 09-Jun-16 12:54:16

Yes, I worked for a multinational pharmaceutical company and was told that heels were compulsory - they didn't have to be very high, a kitten heel would do, no wedges, no flats, no open toes, tights at all times and most horrifically for me as I saw it, no trousers for women, just dresses and skirts. angry

notagiraffe Thu 09-Jun-16 12:54:29

Of course it's not like wearing a tie. Ties don't cause backache and bunions and searing, shooting pains through the feet and legs. They don't prevent wearers from running for a bus, or from danger. They don't alter wearer's posture or hamper the natural movement of their spine and limbs.

I'd love to see all the city gents who make such rules hobbling round in four inch stilettos all day every day for a year, especially in slippery, icy weather.

notagiraffe Thu 09-Jun-16 12:55:27

Rainbow it's staggering that they can get away with such dress codes these days.

Rainbowzippy Thu 09-Jun-16 12:57:34

Thing is, I don't know if it was ever in writing but I and my female colleagues were absolutely told this was what we must wear, by our sales director, repeatedly. Pissing him off was career-limiting.

StopHammerTime Thu 09-Jun-16 13:01:56

I would enthusiastically support this campaign were it not for the simple fact that it is ALREADY UNLAWFUL to force women to wear high heels to work. It would amount to Direct Sex Discrimination and Indirect Discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. I am an employment solicitor and every other employment solicitor I know (which is a lot, we're a sociable bunch) is mystified as to how this has been so recklessly reported.

I commend Nicola Thorpe for standing up (in flats) to her employer who insisted she wear high heels. However she already has the very legal right she is campaigning for and could very easily initiate legal action in the Employment Tribunal.

I am pleased that people are talking about equality and calling out discrimination, I have dedicated my career to it. However, there is no need to campaign for a legal justice which we already have. By all means we should raise awareness that, whilst unlawful, bosses still behave like sexist pigs. However I am very concerned that the misreporting of the legal issues in this case could actually be harmful. What if a woman is asked by her boss to wear high heels tomorrow? She is going to incorrectly believe that she has to comply because the press have told her that it is legal. What if a sexist pig of boss decides to implement such a policy as it has been so widely reported that, apparently, he can.

I hope anyone posting examples of discrimination similar to that experienced by Nicola Thorpe reads this post and understands that they are legally protected from such discrimination and should not assume that the papers are correct.

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