High heels caused one woman to lose her job, the other to bleed

PHOTO: Nicola Gavins' Facebook

Back in December last year, Nicola Thorp, 27, from London, had to strut back home before she could even begin her first day at work as a temporary receptionist.

Why?

Because she wasn't wearing heels - a supposed dress requirement for female employees working in corporate finance company, PwC.

Finding the demand to wear "2 inch to 4 inch" heels discriminatory and sexist, Ms Thorp was sent home without any pay after she refused to swap out her flat shoes for a pair of heels.

Ms Thorp was quoted by BBC Radio London as saying: "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. 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."

A little upset over what had taken place, Ms Thorp spoke to her friends and discovered after posting her story on Facebook, that several other women in the world have faced a similar struggle.

That then inspired Ms Thorp to launch a petition in London, calling for the law to be changed so companies may no longer be able to force women to wear high heels to work.

It has since been able to draw over 11,000 signatures. PwC later clarified that the dress code was not a PwC policy and that it was their outsourced reception firm Portico's appearance guidelines that Ms Thorp had breached.

Portico told BBC that Ms Thorp had "signed the appearance guidelines" but that they will now be reviewing them due to this incident.

"I don't hold anything against the company necessarily, because they are acting within their rights as employers to have a formal dress code, and, as it stands, part of that for a woman is to wear high heels. I think dress codes should reflect society and nowadays women can be smart and wear flat shoes," said Ms Thorp to BBC Radio London.

Like Ms Thorp's receptionist job, some other jobs also require people to stay on their feet and move around a lot during the day - making flat shoes the more logical choice of footwear for women with such occupations.

However that wasn't the case for another woman in Alberta, Canada.

Last week (May 3), Nicola Gavins, a freelance make-up artist, got over 53,000 people interested on Facebook when she uploaded a picture of her unnamed friend's bloodied feet after her friend completed a gruelling waitressing shift.

She added in her post that the restaurant manager had even "berated" her friend for wearing flats, forcing her to wear heels the following day.

Even after her friend lost a toe nail, Nicola claimed that her friend was "specifically told that heels would be required on her next shift the following day" by her manager. Nicola said in her post that: "the female staff have to purchase a uniform/dress at the cost of $30 (S$41) while male staff can dress themselves in black clothing from their own closets (and are not required to wear heels."

Since then, Joey Restaurant, particularly the one on Jasper Ave in Edmonton, Alberta, has been receiving a lot of flak from people all over the world.

Nicola's post itself has been shared over 11,000 times on Facebook, receiving much support from netizens.

Below are some of the comments:

Till today, Joey restaurant has failed to provide a statement on the incident.

mldas@sph.com.sg