Keeping up appearances & the great shoe debate

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Saturday, January 7th, 2017

It recently hit the press that a receptionist temping at management consultancy monolith PwC was told by her employment agency that she had to wear heels of at least 2 inches to perform her duties.


The lady in question was sent home from working after refusing to comply with the request on the basis that she could perform the role more than adequately in flat shoes. Her argument was levied on the basis that flat shoes are more comfortable and questioned why heels were considered a necessary imposition by the agency. She also argued that her male counterparts were not asked to wear heels in the office. The individual concerned has since started a petition to the UK Government to see that women are not forced to wear heels to work.

This incident comes just days before a weather-person on US television was handed a cardigan live on air as viewers had been contacting the station to complain about the appropriateness of her attire. On putting the cardigan on the weather-person stated she now looked ‘like a librarian’ to which some took great offence.

Both incidents highlight the following issues:

  • workplace dress;
  • dress codes;
  • appropriateness; and
  • gender stereotyping

An employer is entitled to impose a dress code on the basis that all employees, regardless of sex are treated fairly and equally. If certain garments or footwear are required for the adequate performance of duties then this is likely to be treated differently. The imposition of a dress code that leaves one sex at a disadvantage is likely to be deemed unacceptable and lead to complaints of indirect discrimination.

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