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A recent news story revealed how a temporary receptionist has claimed that she was sent home from her place of work in the City of London because she was not wearing high heels.  The employee was instructed that flat shoes were not part of the dress code for women at this particular employer.

The employee said that she had explained her concerns about wearing high heels at work and how uncomfortable these would be to wear in the course of her specific duties as a receptionist and because this included escorting clients to meeting rooms during the course of a 9 hour working day.

In response, the company that ran the outsourced reception services sent this employee home without pay unless she purchased high heeled shoes of between 2-4 inches high.  However, the employee refused to do this and alleged that she was sent home without pay.

An employer does have a relatively large degree of discretion when establishing a dress code.  However, at the same time, it is necessary for any dress code to be reasonable and applied equally, as far as possible, in terms of the specific requirements (including smartness) for both male and female employees.

Therefore, taking this on board, the suggestion that there is an absolute requirement for female employees working as a receptionist to wear high heels suggests that this will be more difficult to justify as being reasonable.  Furthermore, it is also argued that this particular dress code requirement could also lead to long term health issues for the employees in question.

The employee has since set up a petition calling for it to be made illegal for employers to insist that female employees wear heels at work and that those female employees should have the option to wear formal flat shoes at work.  This petition has attracted more than 20,000 signatures and if it increases to 100,000 then it could trigger a debate by MPs in Parliament on this particular matter.

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