Despite all of the political turmoil and unrest that is happening in the world, I recently received an email from the Petitions team of the UK Government and Parliament with some promising news. The petition set up by Nicola Thorp in May 2016, “make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”, will be debated by Parliament on 6th March this year.
After an inquiry was made by Parliament, and a joint report was published by the Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee, it has been recognised that urgent action needs to be taken in order to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010. The act of Thorp being sent home from work for not wearing high heels was illegal however, she has not been the only person to face discrimination due to enforced dress codes. An online forum on the Parliament website where people could share their experiences was set up in June to help MPs investigate into the issue of dress codes. It revealed that many women suffered pain from wearing high heels shoes for long periods of time, as well as “women who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly reapply make-up.” This proves that the Equality Act is not effective enough in preventing employees from facing discrimination.
Overall, the report calls for:
the Government to take urgent action to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act. It recommends that the Government reviews this area of the law and, if necessary, asks Parliament to amend it.
more effective remedies—such as increased financial penalties—for employment tribunals to award against employers who breach the law, in order to provide an effective deterrent.
the Government to introduce guidance and awareness campaigns targeted at employers, workers and students, to improve understanding of the law and workers’ rights.
You can read the full report on the Parliament website. It is split into several sections, addressing the issue of dress codes, examples of the damage to women’s health from wearing high heel shoes at work, and how the law does and should work in practice.
I can imagine that Thorp is absolutely thrilled that the petition she set up is being debated in Parliament next month. 152,420 people signed the petition, which clearly shows how discriminatory dress codes is an issue in the UK. She fully supports the report and its findings. On the Parliament website Thorp addresses the importance of how the law should be amended:
“The current system favours the employer, and is failing employees. It is crucial that the law is amended so that gender neutral dress codes become the norm, so that they do not exacerbate discrimination against the LGBTQ communities and those who do not conform to gender stereotypes.”
The debate will happen at 4:30pm on Monday 6th March. You can watch the debate live here. If you are interested in watching a debate that happened recently, then you can watch Nicola Thorp on Good Morning Britain clashing with Piers Morgan over the issue of sexist and outdated dress codes.