ELTbase.com logo | Menu
ELTbase.com logo
Complete ESL lessons


Wear high heels or go home

High heels
High heels

Before you read

For what kind of jobs might someone be asked to wear high-heeled shoes?
Why might someone object to wearing high-heeled shoes?
What dress codes are there in your workplace, school or college?
Should dress codes for men and women be the same?
High heels
High heels
When a London office worker was sent home from work without pay because she refused to wear high-heeled shoes, a row soon ignited over workplace dress codes that many considered sexist.

Nicola Thorp, a receptionist at the offices of finance company PwC, arrived for work wearing smart flat shoes. However, her supervisor told her to go out and buy a pair of high-heeled shoes or go home.

Ms Thorp explained that she needed to spend nine hours a day walking around the office and that high-heeled shoes were uncomfortable.

She also pointed out that the dress requirement was unfair as it did not apply to male colleagues. She asked how flat shoes would prevent her from doing her job.

She was given no explanation, and when she refused to buy high-heeled shoes, she was sent home without pay.

PwC later told the media that the dress code was not theirs and said it was set by the agency Portico, who supplied reception staff for their offices.

A spokesperson for Portico said that Ms Thorp had signed their appearance guidelines. However, he said they would review these as a result of what had happened.

They did this shortly afterwards and their new appearance guidelines allowed female employees to wear flat shoes if they preferred.

Meanwhile, Ms Thorp set up a petition demanding that sexually discriminating dress codes be made illegal.

Existing UK law allowed employers to demand that staff follow 'reasonable dress code standards'. They could also set different dress codes for men and women providing there was 'an equivalent level of smartness'.

Over 130,000 people signed, a sufficient number to require a debate in the parliament. This took place in March 2017.

MPs decided the UK government should change the law to prevent similar demands being made by employers in future. However, this was rejected by the government, which claimed that existing legislation was 'adequate'.

Word list


1  Wear High Heels - Comprehension quiz

2  Vocabulary quiz