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13 November 2019
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Temp’s ‘high heels’ petition heads for Parliament

17 May 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

A petition demanding a change in workplace rules on dress code for women has gathered more than 130,000 signatures, which means it will now be debated in Parliament.

The petition was started by receptionist Nicola Thorp after she was sent home without pay by reception outsourcing firm Portico for not wearing high heels for a temp job at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in London. 

The petition, entitled “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”, states: “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. Dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work if they wish. Current formal work dress codes are outdated and sexist.”

The number of signatures has reached 137,067 and government is due to respond in six days and a date for the issue to be debated in Parliament is to be given in five days. 

Simon Pratt, managing director of Portico, told FM World that his firm was committed to reviewing the uniform guidelines in his business following the issue raised by Thorp regarding high-heeled shoes and he said PwC had also asked the firm to review and revise the policy.

Pratt said: “Portico does expect high standards of professional dress from all our team members and we do set these out clearly. We have historically recommended plain court shoes for our female colleagues and have generally allowed plain flat shoes when requested.

“We are totally committed to being an inclusive and equal opportunities employer, actively embracing diversity and inclusion within all our policies and procedures. We are therefore making it very clear that, with immediate effect, all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes or plain court shoes as they prefer. We are proud to have an Investors in People Gold Standard accreditation, which involves a high degree of consultation and teamwork within our business and we are glad to take this opportunity to make a further improvement to our practice.”


David Ward, director of Ward Belgravia, the front-of-house division of the Ward Security Group, told FM World: “We support Portico and sympathise with the difficult situation they find themselves in, and indeed we sympathise with Nicola Thorp. However, we are disappointed to see that this grievance was not resolved through formal human resources channels and procedures.” 

But Ward added: “Having said that, it is our belief that this incident will lead to a better understanding between service suppliers and clients as to the fine balance of ensuring practicality and comfort for supplied staff that allows them to do the job for which they are employed, while still representing client brands and values.”