Is This The Most Out­dated Law Ever?

When re­cep­tion­ist Ni­cola Thorp was sent home be­cause she re­fused to wear a pair of high heels on the job, it was mor­ti­fy­ing for her. But it also raised the ques­tion: why is it still le­gal to force women to wear them?

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icola Thorp’s name might be fa­mil­iar to you by now. The 27-year-old part-time re­cep­tion­ist and ac­tress from Lon­don sparked a fu­ri­ous de­bate last week when she re­vealed that she was or­dered to wear high heels by her pre­vi­ous em­ployer.

When Ni­cola turned up for work at ac­coun­tancy firm PWC (via the agency she was hired by, Por­tico) she was told that her flat shoes were in­ap­pro­pri­ate and asked to go and buy a pair of smart 2-4in heels.

‘It was my first day on the job and they said: “Go out and buy a pair of heels or we’ll send you home.” I was with a male col­league and I pointed out that he was wearing flat shoes. I told them that I thought I was be­ing treated dif­fer­ently be­cause I’m a woman. They dis­missed my com­ments and I felt hu­mil­i­ated.’

Out­raged, but un­sure what to do, Ni­cola didn’t share her ex­pe­ri­ence for months – but as soon as she tweeted, her com­ments went vi­ral. Plus they re­vealed a gap­ing gen­der

Ngap in UK law, which states that it’s still le­gal for em­ploy­ers to force women to work in high heels. ‘It’s not just about wearing heels,’ says Ni­cola, who loves don­ning them for a night out. ‘It’s about how these big com­pa­nies in­ter­pret the law and the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of wearing them in the of­fice.’ Re­search has re­vealed that it takes an av­er­age of one hour, six min­utes and 48 sec­onds for high heels to start hurt­ing. Con­sid­er­ing a typ­i­cal shift is eight hours or more, that means spend­ing over three­quar­ters of your day in pain.

And Ni­cola’s not the only one who’s been asked to ditch her flats. ‘When I was in­ter­view­ing for a shop floor staff role at a top depart­ment store re­cently, they de­manded I wear a black suit, heels, a pearl neck­lace and told me the client “pre­ferred” red lip­stick,’ says Alexa, 29, from Cheshire. ‘It was like they wanted us all to be dolls.’ She later turned down the job.

So how can we change the state of play? For Ni­cola, it’s all about re­vers­ing

Heels can start hurt­ing just an hour into the day

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