News has broken this morning that MPs are saying that the government must enforce the law properly to ban sexist dress rules at work that discriminate women. The demand has come from two parliamentary committees, for Petitions and for Women and Equalities.
The report follows the experience of Nicola Thorp, who was sent home in December 2015 for not wearing high heels. She refused to obey the rules of her employment agency, Portico, that she should wear shoes with heels between two and four inches high. Whilst Ms Thorpe argued that wearing heels all day would be bad for her feet and made the point that her male colleagues were not asked to follow the same rules, she was still sent home from her job.
Her parliamentary petition on the issues gained more than 150,000 signatures. The joint report of the two committees, entitled High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes, found that the Equality Act 2010 should ban discriminatory dress rules at work, but in practice the law is not applied properly to protect workers of either gender.
Helen Jones, MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee has said “It’s clear from the stories we’ve hear from members of the public that Nicola’s story is far from unique.”
The examples of unlawful dress rules extended much further than just shoes, with the committee hearing about demands that some women should dye their hair blond, wear revealing clothes or re-apply make-up frequently.
“This may have started over a pair of high heels, but what it has revealed about discrimination in the UK workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward via the committees’ online forum,” Ms Thorp said. “The current system favours the employer, and is failing employees,” she said.
Portico, Ms Thorp’s then employer, said: “We fully support the recommendations within the report and welcome the debate in Parliament in March. When this issue was raised last year we immediately updated our uniform guidance.”