High heels row: Petition for work dress code law rejected

Calls to make it illegal for companies to tell women to wear high heels at work have been rejected by the government.

The Equalities Office said it would instead introduce guidelines for firms on workplace dress codes this summer.

It said companies should assess whether their rules are “relevant and lawful”.

The issue was debated in Parliament in March after Nicola Thorp, who was sent home for wearing flat shoes, set up a petition with more 152,000 signatures.

Miss Thorp began the petition after being told to leave a temp job for refusing to wear a “2-4in heel”.

A subsequent parliamentary investigation into heels and company dress codes found “widespread discrimination” in workplaces.

Employers ‘flout’ laws

The Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee published its findings in January, observing that “potentially discriminatory dress codes are commonplace”.

On Friday, the government said the law was “adequate” in a formal response to the petition and investigation.

“But we recognise that some employers lack awareness of the law or even choose to flout it,” the government said.

It added: “The Government Equalities Office will be producing guidance on dress codes in the workplace as a specific response to the Thorp petition and the issues it raises.”

Miss Thorp, who is an equality campaigner from London, simply tweeted: “The Government believes that existing legislature is ‘adequate’.”

Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said she welcomed the decision to introduce new guidelines.

“This petition, and the committees’ inquiry, have reinforced the need for effective enforcement of legislation and for employers and employees to be aware of their obligations and rights,” she said.

“We welcome the commitments made by the government to increasing awareness of those rights.”

Ms Miller said she hoped the next government, which will be voted in at the election on 8 June, would “monitor how this changes women’s experiences of the workplace”.

Helen Jones, who chairs the Petitions Committee, added that Miss Thorp’s petition and the resultant investigation had done a “great deal” to raise awareness.

“The government has accepted our recommendation that it should be doing much more to improve understanding among employers and employees alike, to prevent discriminatory practices in the workplace,” she said.

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