Hundreds of workers facing dress code discrimination, say MPs
Wednesday 25th January 2017
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes was published by two UK parliamentary groups, the Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee, and claims that the extreme pain women suffer from wearing high heels affects their concentration and ability to focus.
The joint report says that painful high heels can cause the wearer to tighten their abdominal muscles and breathe more shallowly and quickly. Breathing in this way can send the body into "fight or flight" mode, which diverts blood to the legs and arms, away from the brain.
It cites research from the College of Podiatry, which studied the length of time women can endure high heeled shoes without experiencing discomfort. It found that, on average, their feet would hurt after nearly one hour and seven minutes, however a fifth said their feet felt sore after just 10 minutes.
"The petition was started because of an individual's experience, but it has become clear in the course of our inquiry that this was not an isolated incident," the MPs said. "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."
The committees found that some employers demanded female staff wear high heels during pregnancy, while other women said long periods of wearing such footwear meant they needed corrective surgery which left them out of work for extended periods.
Numerous health problems have been linked to wearing high heels for extended periods, including knee, hip and spine issues due to a change in gait; stress fractures in foot bones from sustained body weight on the ball of the foot; ankle sprains and fractures; bunions; and blisters and skin lesions.
Wearing shoes of this kind can reduce balance (especially in workers over 40) and ankle flexion, and weaken muscle power in the calf, warned the College of Podiatry.
Azmat Mohammed, director general of the Institute of Recruiters, is quoted in the report as saying: "Employers are legally obliged to do health and safety assessments anyway, but it doesn't really go into that much detail in terms of shoes and footwear."
Scarlet Harris, women's equality officer at TUC, added: "There is a lot of focus on the safety aspect in health and safety legislation. There is a lot of legislation around personal protective clothing, for example, and shoes that you must wear, like steel-capped toes, where you are protecting your feet. There is very little about the health and wellbeing side, which should actually be part of that legislation -- it is part of the legislation but there is less focus on it."
The two committees also received complaints from women who said they felt "humiliated", "degraded" and "sexualised" by their employer's insistence on high heels.
The MPs concluded that the Equality Act 2010 is failing to protect workers from discrimination. They have called on the government to allow employment tribunals to award larger financial penalties and, if necessary, to review the law and make it more effective.
"The Equality Act is clear in principle in setting out what constitutes discrimination in law. Nevertheless, discriminatory dress codes remain commonplace in some sectors of the economy. Moreover, we have heard evidence that many employers are not taking dress codes into account in their health and safety risk assessments. This means that the law is obviously not working in practice to protect employees from discriminatory practices and unsafe working conditions," they said.
"The government has said that it expects employers to inform themselves about their legal obligations and comply with the law. This is not enough. We have heard evidence that, in certain sectors, breaches of the law are commonplace. Pushing responsibility onto employers to find out their legal obligations and comply is a strategy which is not working. The government needs to do more and must do it quickly.
"We recommend that the government substantially increase the penalties available to employment tribunals to award against employers, including the financial penalties. At present, such penalties are not sufficient deterrent to breaking the law."
Commenting on the report, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Far too many employers are still stuck in the past when it comes to dress codes. It is unacceptable that in 2017 bosses are still forcing women to wear painful, inappropriate shoes. Wearing high heels on a regular basis can cause foot, knee and back problems. High heels -¦ should be a choice, not a condition of the job."
With pump-priming funding from the British Safety Council, Mates in Mind has been registered as a charity and will coordinate a tiered training package targeted at managers down to operatives, provided by partners Mental Health First Aid, the mental health charity, Mind, and the Samaritans.
Adam Withers, 20, was admitted to Epsom General Hospital’s Elgar Ward as a voluntary patient on 14 April 2014, with an acute psychotic illness.An inquest held at Woking Coroner’s Court in January 2016 heard that in the early afternoon of 9 May 2014, Withers had held a conversation with a member of staff in the ward’s courtyard, saying that he could see a ladder attached to a 40 metre chimney and wanted to climb it.
With pump-priming funding from the British Safety Council, Mates in Mind has been registered as a charity and will coordinate a tiered training package targeted at managers, supervisors and operatives. The industry-led initiative is supported by the non-profit company Mental Health First Aid, the mental health charity, Mind, and the Samaritans. The construction industry charity the Lighthouse Club will also offer support through a confidential helpline.
The UK’s “workplace cake culture” is furthering the obesity epidemic and tooth decay in adults, according to the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS). It said work is now the main place that many people consume sugar. Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the FDS at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, said: “Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays.
The company has since introduced new systems to reduce the risk to workers from vehicles being driven onto the production line.Mark Widnall, aged 59, from Coventry, was carrying out vehicle checks on the Land Rover line at Jaguar’s Lode Lane plant in Solihull in the West Midlands on 8 February 2015 when the accident occurred.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is reminding those responsible for the safety of high-rise residential buildings in England have six months from April to register with the new Building Safety Regulator by law.
Organisations should provide their crisis management teams with the correct level of training, investment and support so they can respond effectively to the major global risks facing the world in 2023.
Work-related ill-health and non-fatal injuries have risen, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) latest annual health and safety at work statistics for Great Britain, published last week
A UK study of line managers that explores the support they have given employees who have returned to work after long-term sickness absence due to common mental disorders highlights five behavioural strategies that could enhance HR and senior management policies and practices.
A randomised control trial has found that office workers who use a standing desk alongside other interventions that encourage them to sit less and move around reduced their sitting time by an hour a day over one year.
A new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has underlined the need for stronger OSH protections in response to the growing focus on psychosocial work to support wellbeing and productivity, changes to working practices brought about by COVID-19 and technological advances in the economy.