World

Work dress code for British women includes heels, make-up: Report

LONDON: High heels, blonde hair and make-up are listed among the dress code for women in the British workplace despite gender discrimination being illegal, a parliamentary report released yesterday has found.

The inquiry into women's experiences at work was sparked after a receptionist was sent home without pay last year by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ms Nicola Thorp had refused to wear 5cm to 10cm heels, arguing that men were not required to abide by the same rule.

The incident prompted a petition, which gained more than 150,000 signatures, leading to the report from the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee.

"We heard from hundreds of women who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels for long periods in the workplace, as well as from women who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly re-apply make-up," the report said.

British law allows firms to set dress codes but says companies must not discriminate against women in doing so.

The committees argued that the current legal framework is not fully effective and called on the government to review the law and, if necessary, change it.

Ms Thorp said the current system is "failing employees" and needs to be amended.

"This may have started over a pair of high heels, but what it has revealed about discrimination in the workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward," she said.

Responding to the report, a government spokesman said the findings will be considered by the Equalities Office.

"Dress codes must be reasonable and include equivalent requirements for both men and women," he said. - AFP

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