Workplace Dress Codes (High Heels) — [Mr David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:57 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:57 pm, 6th March 2017

Yes, I agree that every worker should have access to the courts. Unfortunately, the tribunal fees that have been introduced have restricted such access. I think I am right in saying that no employee of Rochdale Borough Council has had to seek that access; I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point, but the uniforms provided by Rochdale Borough Council tend to be practical and appropriate for the job.

A brief dress code such as that is really all that is needed. Any attempt to be prescriptive and go into further detail about particular items of clothing is a waste of everyone’s time and, given the vagaries of fashion, likely to be quickly superseded by some new fad or trend.

I personally think that high heels hobble and restrict women and hamper our ability to move freely, and even to run away if necessary. However, I recognise that some women choose to wear heels of their own volition, and I will not criticise them for that—we should all be free to wear whatever we like. What I cannot tolerate is employers trying to force women into an ideal of what constitutes professionalism or power dressing by insisting that particular items, such as cripplingly high heels, must be worn.

I am reminded of Ginger Rogers’ famous response when she was asked about dancing with Fred Astaire and said, “It’s easy, I just do everything that Fred does,” and then added, “just backwards and in high heels.” That is all these strict dress code stipulations are—an attempt to hobble and restrict women, meaning that we have to perform as well as men, if not better, while being held back by quaint, stereotypical notions of what constitutes femininity and a professional appearance. So I say to women everywhere, “Let’s have no more going backwards in high heels; let’s go forwards, and in sensible shoes.”