It's 2016 and turns out this is a thing. Another thing to add to the list of things that are really fun for women in the workplace.
A woman has set up a petition on the legalities of dress codes after being sent home from work for wearing flat shoes.
Nicola Thorp says she was asked to leave when she turned up to a temporary receptionist role wearing flats and then refused to go out and buy heels as requested.
Thorp, who had been sent to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in London by a third-party agency, Portico, told BBC Radio London that she was dismissed without pay when she questioned the policy, which was set by Portico, not PwC.
“I said, ‘If you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough’, but they couldn’t. I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said, ‘I just won’t be able to do that in heels’.”
Thorp, who was temping in December 2015 between acting roles, told several news outlets she’d been “laughed at” for suggesting the ask was sexist, telling Telegraph Women, “When I pointed out that my male colleague was allowed to work in flat shoes, and that I felt that I was being discriminated against, I was laughed at.
“She said, ‘Men aren’t used to wearing heels’ – well I’m afraid I’m not, either. I must’ve missed that class at school.”
After calling an employment hotline, Thorp, 27, was told employers have the right to impose a dress code. Presumably because perceived leg length has a direct impact on how good women are at herding people round offices (it has nothing but a positive effect on running away from dinosaurs, after all).
She added: “I've was told that because men don't usually wear high heels in non-work life, yet women do, it is not sex discrimination to expect women to wear high heels.”
A Portico spokesperson responded to the wave of publicity by saying having appearance guidelines is “in line with industry standard practice” and that they “ensure staff are dressed consistently and include recommendations for appropriate style of footwear for the role.”
However, they added: “We have taken on board the comments regarding footwear and will be reviewing our guidelines in consultation with our clients and team members.”
A spokeswoman for PwC said: “PwC outsources its front of house/reception services to a third party supplier. We first became aware of this matter on 10 May some five months after the issue arose. The dress code referenced in the article is not a PwC policy. We are now in discussion with the suppliers about the policy.”
Thorp's petition, found here, had at time of writing sailed past the 10,000 signatures needed to require the government to respond. At 100,000 it gets debated in Parliament. The petition states: “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 outdated and sexist.”
Images: BBC / iStock