The Governemnt has rejected calls for employers to be banned from forcing women to wear high heels
One woman who was sent home after she refused to wear heels at work yesterday branded the response a “cop-out”.
Nicola Thorp was working as a receptionist when she refused to wear shoes with a “2in to 4in heel” last May – and was sent home without pay.
More than 150,000 people signed a petition in support of Ms Thorp, who had just started work at a London finance company.
The Government has announced that new guidelines on dress codes are expected to be issued in the summer.
But it stressed that it was already illegal for company bosses to force women to wear high heels at work and insisted laws already in place were “adequate” to deal with discrimination.
Ms Thorp said that while it was against the rules to discriminate, the law still allows employers to set different rules for the way men and women dress.
She said: “It’s a shame they won’t change legislation. It shouldn’t be down to people like myself.
The Government should take responsibility and put it in legislation
“The Government should take responsibility and put it in legislation. I do think it is a little bit of a cop-out.”
The Government insisted that companies cannot discriminate between men and women.
A spokesman said: “No employer should discriminate against workers on grounds of gender – it is unacceptable and is against the law. Dress codes must include equivalent requirements for both men and women.
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Nicola Thorp. pictured, was sent home from work after refusing to wear a '2in to 4 in heel'
“To make the law clearer to employers and raise awareness among employees, the Government will be producing new guidance on workplace dress codes.”
But Ms Thorp, an actor, said firms should not be able to distinguish between men and women.
She said: “As it stands, the Equalities 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.
More than 150,000 people signed a petition in support of Ms Thorp
“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.”
The Government has called on all employers with dress codes to review them and “consider whether they remain relevant and lawful”.
It accepted that awareness among workers and their bosses is patchy and some employers “knowingly flout the law”.
The Government insisted that current legislation was 'adequate' to deal with discrimination
An investigation by Commons committees found that women workers have been told by their bosses to dye their hair, have manicures and wear revealing clothes.
Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “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.”