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UK Researchers Fight ‘Discriminating’ High Heel Policy

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Female residents of the U.K. should not be required to wear high heels to work, according to research published Tuesday.

Researchers formulated the study in response to Nicola Thorp, a receptionist from finance company PwC that was forced to leave work for a day without pay after refusing to wear heels to her office.

Thorp, describing herself as an “equality campaigner,” saw the issue as a form of sexism when men laughed at her for suggesting that both genders should be required to wear heels, the BBC reported in 2016. Thorp brought the case to the U.K. court in April 2017, wanting to create an additional law making it illegal for companies to force women to wear high heels to work.

“Employers are entitled to set dress codes for their workforce, but the law is clear that these dress codes must be reasonable,” the U.K. Government Equalities Office wrote in response to Thorp’s petition. “That includes any differences between the nature of rules for male and female employees, otherwise the company may be breaking the law. Employers should not be discriminating against women in what they require them to wear.”

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen took Thorp’s case even further, suggesting the need to make new legislation in research published Tuesday in Biomed Central Public Health (BMC).

“In the United Kingdom, the Government has published a response stating that it will work to develop guidelines and raise awareness of this issue, as others have also done, to ensure women are not discriminated against in the workplace,” Dr. Max Barnish said in the study. “Nevertheless, there has been some media confusion about the details of this response and some commentators have criticised the decision to rely on the Equality Act (2010) rather than propose new legislation. In comparison, the Canadian province of British Columbia has chosen to make an amendment to existing legislation to specifically prohibit employers from requiring female staff to wear high heels.”

U.K. officials maintain that the current law is “adequate.”

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