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Receptionist 'sent home from work without pay for refusing to wear high heels'

Siobhan Fenton in The Independent

A woman has been sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels, it has been reported.

Temp worker Nicola Thorp says she arrived for her first day in a new role at the London offices of accountancy firm PwC wearing flat shoes. She says she was told to change into high heels with a height of 2 to 4 inches.

Ms Thorp claims she was laughed at when she challenged the policy and sent home without pay when she refused to wear heels.

Ms Thorp told The BBC that she was shocked when she arrived at work for her first day and was told about the policy: “I said ‘If you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough’, but they couldn’t. I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said ‘I just won’t be able to do that in heels’.”

She says she asked whether men were also expected to wear high heels and was laughed at for raising the objection. She said: “I was a bit scared about speaking up about it in case there was backlash. But I realised I needed to put a voice to this as it is a much bigger issue. Aside from the debilitating factor, it’s a sexism issue. I think companies shouldn’t be forcing that on their female employees.”

Ms Thorp has launched a petition calling for the law to be changed to stop employers from being able to insist that a woman wear high heels as part of their work. It has amassed more than 20,000 signatures of support.

PwC have stated that the dress code is not their policy but that of a third party recruitment firm Portico which they use to employ staff. A spokesperson told The BBC: “PwC outsources its front of house and reception services to a third party supplier. We first became aware of this matter on 10 May, some five months after the issue arose. The dress code is not a PwC policy.”

A Portico spokesperson said: “In line with industry standard practice, we have personal appearance guidelines across many of our corporate locations. These policies ensure staff are dressed consistently and include recommendations for appropriate style of footwear for the role. We have taken on board the comments regarding footwear and will be reviewing our guidelines in consultation with our clients and team members.”

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