High-Heel Dress Codes in the Workplace

At the Trade Union Congress’s annual conference at the end of last year, it was made apparent that wearing high-heeled shoes at work is both sexist and can lead to poor foot health.

Companies can legally require female employees to wear high heels in the workplace by stating it in their dress code policy. The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP) detailed that both long and short term injuries, caused by wearing inappropriate footwear, is being increasingly seen. A study by researchers at Stanford University suggests that following this dress code could cause arthritis, due to walking in high heels putting knees under additional strain. Also, it can lead to back problems, including the risk of slipped vertebrae.

The Congress is wanting common sense and fairness in the work place to be implemented rather than a ban on high heels being worn. Consequently, they wish to educate employers and employees on the dangers of inappropriate footwear at work. This is not just high heels, flip flops and sandals being worn in the summer months has been shown to increase the number of accidents in some workplaces, including the energy supplier E.ON.

Employees working in industries such as construction, must wear appropriate footwear for safety purposes due to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations. Therefore, footwear should also be looked at in other industries to try to reduce the number of accidents caused by inappropriate footwear being worn.

In May 2016, an employee at an accountancy firm in London was sent home on her first day working as a corporate receptionist because she refused to wear high heels. According to the employee in an interview, around £250m a year is lost by businesses due to compensation given to women wearing high heels who have sustained injuries at work.

Perspective HR suggests that you have a common-sense approach when it comes to creating a dress code for your organisation. It is important that an equivalent level of ‘smartness’ is included if men and women are required to have different dress code policies.

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