London receptionist ‘sent home for not wearing heels’

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A London receptionist was sent home from work on her first day after refusing to wear high heels.

Temp worker Nicola Thorp, 27, from Hackney, arrived at finance company PwC to be told she had to wear shoes with a “two to four inch heel”.

When she refused and complained male colleagues were not asked to do the same, she was sent home without pay.

Thorp was hired by outsourcing recruitment firm Portico to work at PwC last December. Portico said Ms Thorp had “signed the appearance guidelines” but it would now review them.

Ms Thorp said she would have struggled to work a full day in high heels and had asked to wear the smart flat shoes she had worn to the office in Embankment.

But instead she was was told she should go and buy a pair of heels on her first day, back in December.

Ms Thorp told the BBC:

“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’.”

Ms Thorp said she asked if a man would be expected to do the same shift in heels, and was laughed at.

She has since set up a petition calling for the law to be changed so women cannot be forced to wear high heels to work. It has had more than 10,000 signatures.

As the law stands, employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to “reasonable” dress code demands, as long as they’ve been given enough time to buy the right shoes and clothes.

They can set up different codes for men and women, as long as there’s an “equivalent level of smartness”.

Ms Thorp said she did not blame the company involved but the law should be changed so women could not be required to wear high heels.

Simon Pratt, managing director at Portico, said:

“It is common practice within the service sector to have appearance guidelines.These policies ensure customer-facing staff are consistently well presented and positively represent a client’s brand and image.”

A PwC spokesman said the company was in discussions with Portico about its policy.

“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. PwC does not have specific dress guidelines for male or female employees.”

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