More than 100,000 people have signed Nicola Thorp’s petition to “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work” as it's still legal in the UK for a company to require female members of staff to wear high heels at work against their will. The petition argues that the dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work, if they wish.
In the meantime, the nation is now publicly having its own debate about whether an organisation with policies such as this, are an organisation they would like to work for. It could portray a level of inflexibility; and render a company being labelled out-dated and sexist.
I have personally been working with a number of employers who are focusing their efforts on developing their employer brand lately. With the current war for top talent, organisations are keen to portray themselves in various lights including diverse, flexible and supportive of equal pay. Therefore, to truly live their values and culture, do organisations also need to be slightly more flexible with dress code policy? Flexibility and a forward thinking environment is a huge tick box for attracting females, millennials, men with families and frankly anyone who wants to be rewarded for working hard and prioritising their own time.
I appreciate that it is important for organisations to portray a professional environment to their clients. There is often little need to consider health and safety of clothes within a professional services environment and often there is more of a focus on reflecting a corporate image to the outside world and clients. As individuals we are all subject to unconscious bias and obviously there is a need to wear smart work attire. However I would certainly argue that a flat shoe can look far more professional than some of the various types of heels I have seen in the workplace... polished is better than platform!
Leanne Adair is a Consultant in the HR practice
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