A recent workplace event in London has caused workplace law advisors to take note. After her temp agency sent her home for not wearing high heels, 27 year old Nicola Thorp has put her foot down on discriminatory office policy.
It all began when Ms Thorp landed a temporary position through her agency Portico as a secretary with accounting firm PwC. The temp job was secured by her agency Portico who she had been employed through for over two years.
On what was set to be her first day in the office Ms Thorp was sent home by Portico for not wearing high heels. When she explained she wouldn’t be able to do her job effectively wearing them and that her male colleagues didn’t have the same dress code, Ms Thorp was met with laughter.
Ms Thorp advised “The supervisor told me that I would be sent home without any pay unless I went to the shop and bought a pair of 2 inch to 4 inch heels. I refused and was sent home, without pay.”
Sent home without pay Ms Thorp was proactive and started an online petition called “make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”. As sore footed women from around the country caught wind of the petition its popularity has grown. With over 100,000 signatures, the topic is now eligible for debate in UK parliament.
The policy is not a PwC policy, it is one sought to be put into place by Portico. PwC are now in discussions with Portico about the policy.
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AUSTRALIANS?
Under current employment laws, enforcing a policy that forces women to wear high heels or imposes other gender specific dress codes could breach discrimination laws. But don’t go rocking the ugg boots at work! An employer can still set a standard of dress in the workplace that is reasonable and lawful. This can include wearing enclosed footwear or requiring someone to dress is business attire.
Dress requirements to keep an eye out for, are those that impact on gender, including making high heel’s mandatory. This is particularly the case where such requirements have large disadvantages such as the knee and foot injuries that can be caused by wearing high heels.
About the authors:
This article has been co-authored by Haley Graydon and Steven Brown at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Haley is a law clerk and is in her final year of study at UWA. Haley has a keen interest in is family law and estates. Steven is a Perth lawyer and director, and has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in commercial law, dispute resolution and estate planning.