British receptionist sent home without pay for refusing to wear heels at work

Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels at work.
Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels at work.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ NICOLA SIAN THORP

LONDON - A London receptionist who was "laughed at" and sent home without pay when she refused to wear high heels at work has started a petition asking for the policy to be banned.

British employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to "reasonable" dress code demands as long as they've been given enough time to buy the right shoes and clothes, BBC said.

The petition by Ms Nicola Thorp, 27, on the British government's Petitions website has amassed more than 10,000 signatures since it was started on Monday (May 9).

The government needs to respond to any petition signed by more than 10,000 people. At 100,000 signatures, a petition may be debated in Parliament.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Thorp said she was told to wear shoes with heels of two to four inches on her first day of work at finance company PwC, back in December last year. She was hired by an outsourcing firm Portico, for PwC.

Ms Thorp asked to wear formal flat shoes instead, but was asked to go and buy a pair of heels.

She also asked if a man would be asked to wear heels, and was laughed at.

"I said 'if you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough', but they couldn't," Ms Thorp told BBC Radio London.

"I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said I just won't be able to do that in heels."

After realising that other women found themselves in the same position, Ms Thorp decided to post the petition.

"Dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work, if they wish. Current formal work dress codes are outdated and sexist," she wrote in her petition.

She added that she does not have anything against the company, but thinks that dress codes should "reflect society".

"Aside from the debilitating factor, it's the sexism issue. I think companies shouldn't be forcing that on their female employees," she said.

A PwC spokesman said the company does not have such a dress code and is in discussion with Portico about the policy.

Portico has responded to the BBC, saying that they are reviewing their guidelines on how employees dress.

A Portico spokesman said: "In line with industry standard practice, we have personal appearance guidelines across many of our corporate locations. These policies ensure staff are dressed consistently and include recommendations for appropriate style of footwear for the role.

"We have taken on board the comments regarding footwear and will be reviewing our guidelines in consultation with our clients and team members."

Wearing high heels can cause bunions and hurt the wearer's back, legs and knee joints.