One woman’s objection to wearing high heels in the office looks set to revolutionise the enforcement of government policy on sexist dress rules.
Nicola Thorp launched a government petition after being sent home from work for not wearing heels between two and four inches.
Her refusal centred around two facts: firstly, wearing them all day would be injurious to her health and secondly, her male colleagues were not asked to do the same.
After Ms Thorp’s petition gained in excess of 150,000 signatures, the committees for Petitions and for Women and Equalities created a joint report on the matter.
Despite the Equality Act 2010 banning discriminatory dress rules at work, businesses are ignoring the guidelines and the law is not effectively being enforced.
Helen Jones MP, chair of the Petitions Committee, stated: ‘The way that Nicola Thorp was treated by her employer is against the law, but that didn’t stop her being sent home from work without pay’.
‘It is clear from the stories we’ve heard from members of the public that Nicola’s story is far from unique’, she continued.
Some women have even told of instructions by bosses to wear shorter skirts, unbutton blouses and reapply make up throughout the day.
The report recommends a publicity campaign to educate both employers and employees on the rules and complaints procedures.
Primarily however, the report focuses on the importance of enforcing existing law more vigorously and enabling employment tribunals to place larger fines on businesses who fail to respect the rules.
The report boldly suggests that guilty employers should be made to pay compensation to every worker affected by their discriminatory rules.
Both committees have called on the government to review this area of law and if necessary, ask parliament to change it.
The government has responded to the recommendations by concurring that ‘no employer should discriminate against workers on ground of gender – it is unacceptable and against the law’.
It seems the next generation of women will suffer neither the pressure to wear heels, nor the pain as a result – hallelujah.