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  1. ITV Report

High heels dress codes can leave women with sports injuries, MPs hear

Being forced to wear high heels at work can leave women suffering physical damage more commonly associated with sports injuries, MPs have heard.

Such dress codes strike many women as "humiliating and demeaning" - and can also have serious health consequences, the debate in Parliament was told.

Labour MP Gill Furniss said her own daughter had suffered a metatarsal fracture - the same injury that threatened to put David Beckham out of the 2002 World Cup - as a result of being ordered to wear heels.

Wearing heels in this way often causes foot pain, bunions, skin lesions, lower limb pathology and other related discomforts for the heel-wearer.

In fact, my own daughter suffered from a metatarsal fracture, which is more commonly affiliated with sports injuries, when she was forced to wear high heels in a former retail job.

Quite literally adding insult to injury, she was denied any compensation or sick pay as she wasn't on the payroll for long enough.

Needless to say, she did not return to this type of work, but not everyone has that choice.

– Gill Furniss MP

The debate was triggered after more than 150,000 people signed a petition calling on ministers to outlaw discriminatory workplace dress codes.

London receptionist Nicola Thorp launched the petition after she was sent home from work when she refused to wear high heels.

Nicola Thorp petitioned Parliament after she was sent home for refusing to wear heels. Credit: PA

Some women were left in tears from their painful and bleeding feet as a result of high heels policies enforced by their employers, heard the debate by the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee.

Other workers said they had been ordered to undo extra buttons on their blouses to make sales or even told they had to travel to work in full make up or face the sack, said Labour MP Helen Jones.

She said they had heard evidence of "discriminatory" and "totally reprehensible" attitudes towards women.

We found that women, especially young women in vulnerable employment, were exploited at work.

Threatened with dismissal if they complained, they were forced to bear pain all day, or to wear clothing that was totally unsuitable for the tasks that they were asked to perform, or to dress in a way that they felt sexualised their appearance and was demeaning.

But they had to put up with this if they needed a job.

– Helen Jones MP
Equalities minister urged companies to dump 'dodgy 1970s' practices. Credit: PA

The debate that equality law should protect women from being subject to rules which are completely out of proportion to those imposed on men.

But tribunal fees of up to £1,200 has prevented many people from seeking justice, the debate heard.

Equalities minister Caroline Dinenage called on all employers to review their dress codes to reform any offices still retaining a "dodgy 1970s workplace diktat".

"I must reiterate that the Government utterly condemns such dress requirements where their effects are discriminatory."