A London receptionist was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels, it has emerged.
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1 What job was the woman supposed to do?
2 What shoes was she wearing on the day she was sent home?
3 What option did the company give her before sending her home?
4 What did the employment hotline say to Nicola?
5 Why don't many companies follow the dress code laws?
6 What was she supposed to do in the job?
7 What's Nicola's opinion of female workers who want to wear high heels?
8 What were high heels originally designed for?
9 When was Price Waterhouse Coopers, the company that hired Nicola, aware of the controversy?
Now a woman who says she was sent home from a receptionist job because she refused to wear high heels is petitioning Parliament to change the law. Nicola Thorp was employed by an agency who then sent her to work at a management consultancy in London. The agency that employed her, Portico, has said to us their personal appearance guidelines are in line with standard industry practice. Well, I've been speaking to Nicola Thorp. She said that she was laughed at when she pointed out that male colleagues weren’t subjected to the same demands when it came to how they dress.
That day I was wearing flat black shoes and they gave me a dress to wear, and a jacket which I put on and the supervisor said, well, you know, you're not going to wear those, we only have women in heels in reception. And I said, well, I think that's ridiculous. I pointed to a male colleague, I said, he's wearing flat shoes, why can’t I? And, of course, that’s laughed at and I understand because that’s a much bigger issue for people to get their heads around. They then said to me, you can go and buy a pair of heels if you like, we’ll let you work. I refused and was sent home.
Without pay.No pay.
Without pay, no. I'm told I can’t work for them so…
So the agency said you, you can't work for us again.
The agency actually really understood. They said, yeah, unfortunately this is what the client requires so I called an employment hotline, and said you know, this is what happened to me, this can't be legal, you know, this is, this is my fundamental right as a woman and they said, well, I'm sorry actually dress codes laws state that an employer can make employees wear a formal dress code, which I agree with, and they can distinguish between male and female. As it stands, flat shoes are not considered to be formal or smart for a woman to wear, and I think that's unfair.
And that still stands, and so were you surprised to discover that that is.
Really, really surprised. Many companies obviously don't take that on board, they’re forward-thinking and think, you know, this is a really outdated, quite sexist dress code, but there are some companies who think that the way a woman should look in a corporate environment is to be two to four inches taller and to change the way, I suppose, they carry themselves.
And there's no doubt in your mind that, that the flat shoes you were wearing were in keeping in terms of they were smart, they were neat, they allowed you… the point is, I think, that potentially you were gonna be on your feet for a nine hour shift because you're walking around the offices showing clients around… I mean… what… Nicole, I’m sorry… I didn’t know that was the law either…
…or that it was written in that way…
It’s so wonderful, it sparked this debate, the only difference is… I mean, I'm wearing pretty much the same shoes now. I would just.. you couldn't tell from the front I would have just been two inches taller.
And what about a woman who might say, oh but I, I actually feel better in heels, I feel stronger, I…
Brilliant! I would… I would encourage women to… this is my point, it's my heels, it’s my choice, I should be able to choose whether to wear heels or not. If a woman wants to, then absolutely fine, that's up to her. If a company wants to have everyone wearing the same, I think it really needs to listen to the women who are saying this is uncomfortable and you're not really treating us very fairly.
And part of the point is that this is a ruling that was probably set in stone many, many, many years ago.
Many years ago, many, many years ago. High heels were originally designed for men so that they could keep their feet in stirrups whilst riding a horse. Now they're not still wearing heels because fashion changes and moves forward so I think it's about time that corporate fashion followed suit.
That was Nicola Thorp in the last hour. Now we did ask the various people involved for a comment. We heard first from PwC, that is the company that the agency sent Nicola to work for. PwC, Price Waterhouse Coopers, says it outsources its front of house and reception services to a third party supplier. We first became aware of this matter on the 10th of May, some five months after the issue arose and the dress code referenced is not, in fact, a PWC policy. We also spoke to the recruitment agency who directly employed Nicola, that’s Portico. Portico said in line with industry standard practice we have personal appearance guidelines across many of our corporate locations. These policies include recommendations for appropriate style of footwear for the role. We will now be reviewing our guidelines in consultation with both our clients and our team members.
2 flat black shoes
3 buying a pair of heels
4 what the company had done was legal
5 because they are outdated and sexist
6 walking around the offices showing clients around
7 she doesn't object to that, that's their choice
8 for men to ride horses
9 on 10th of May, some five months after the issue arose