High heels

'Pull your skirt up! Unbutton your blouse! Get some heels on!' Those types of demands should result in the employer being handed a hefty fine, according to a group of MPs.

The High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes report, published by the Petitions and for Women and Equalities committees, claims that the Equality Act 2010 should have already resulted such discriminatory dress codes being banned. But that hasn't been the case.

In addition to Nicola Thorp, whose story we reported on in May 2016, the MPs were told stories of women who were asked to unfasten a button on their blouses and wear shorter skirts. Some were even forced to wear nail varnish from a very specific colour palette, and those with dyed hair were not allowed to show their root colour. And, of course, there's the issue of being required to wear high heels.

The College of Podiatry told MPs that as many as a fifth of women experience pain after just 10 minutes of wearing high heels. The average woman begins to feel pain just one hour and six minutes into wearing high heels.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Helen Jones MP, said: "The way that Nicola Thorp was treated by her employer is against the law, but that didn't stop her being sent home from work without pay.

"It's clear from the stories we've heard from members of the public that Nicola's story is far from unique."

In our report on the issue last year, Jonathan Walsh, an employment law solicitor at Capital Law, told us that “There is no law specifically dealing with the issue of dress codes in the workplace".

They do have to be justified, however.

“To put it simply, it really depends on the reason why the employer is insisting on this high heel [or similar] rule and the reason why the employee is refusing,” Mr Walsh said.

Now, the MPs want the government to give employment tribunals the power to issue greater financial penalties to companies in breach of the law. It has also recommended a national publicity campaign designed to make employes aware of their obligation and give employees effective advice on how to raise complaints.