The government has rejected calls to introduce a new law banning companies from telling women to wear high heels at work.
This sexist and outdated dress code hit the headlines in December 2015 when Nicola Thorp was sent home from a temporary reception job at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London for wearing flat shoes.
A subsequent petition titled "Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work" attracted more than 150,000 signatures, which led to the issue being debated in parliament last March.
Frustratingly, the Government Equalities Office said yesterday in a formal response to the petition that it would not be proposing a new law relating to high heels in the workplace. The current anti-discrimination law under the Equality Act 2010, the office said, is "adequate" to protect women from sexist dress codes.
Nicola Thorp said in response that it was a "shame" the government had rejected the chance to improve the current law. "It shouldn't be down to people like myself," she told the Press Association. "The government should take responsibility and put it in legislation. I do think it is a little bit of a cop-out."
She also explained why she thinks the current law can fall short. "As it stands, the Equality Act states an employer has the right to distinguish between a male and female dress code as long as they are not deemed to be treating one sex more or less favourably," she said. "Unfortunately, because of intrinsic sexism and the way in which business works in the UK, when employers are allowed the freedom to decide what is fair and unfair, it tends to be women that lose out.”
However, the Government Equalities Office said yesterday that it is "intending to produce new guidance this summer on dress codes in the workplace." This guidance will be designed to clarify anti-discrimination law to employers and employees.
Maria Miller of the Women and Equalities Committee told The Guardian: "Equality legislation is not sufficient to achieve equality in practice. This petition, and the committees’ inquiry, have reinforced the need for effective enforcement of legislation and for employers and employees to be aware of their obligations and rights.
"We welcome the commitments made by the government to increasing awareness of those rights, and hope that the next government will monitor how this changes women’s experiences of the workplace," she added.