Is This The Most Outdated Law Ever?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?
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