What do you wear to work?
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that employees working office jobs were naturally expected to dress semi-formally to work. Generally speaking, this custom began and was perpetuated by the belief that donning more sophisticated clothing reflected an image of professionalism and competence that employers favored, if not demanded.
However, this attitude may very well be a dying tradition. Point and case: Nicola Thorpe, a former intern for Central London’s PricewatershouseCoopers (PwC) office, recently made headlines after challenging her employers’ attempts to control her clothing choices.
According to a recent article published by The Guardian, back in December 2015 Thorpe arrived at work sporting a pair of flat shoes. No big deal, right? Wrong. A supervisor promptly informed her that she was required to wear a 2-4” heel.
Unwilling to comply, Thorpe was asked to leave without compensation.
Thorpe retaliated by posting an e-petition on May 10th requesting that companies be outlawed from forcing women to wear high heels in the workplace. The petition attracted over 100,000 signatures in just two days, which led to an investigation by the UK Parliament’s Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee.
In response, PwC UK quickly pointed that Thorpe was actually an employee of Portico, which is an outsourced corporate reception services company that the firm used. PwC UK further defended itself by emphasizing it did not adhere to a strict dress code requiring women to wear high heels.
Sensing blood in the water, PwC Australia, which enforced a dress code that made it mandatory for employees to wear either suits or tailored dresses, quickly loosened its guidelines to allow for more flexibility.
Portico also avoided legal action by altering its appearance policy to allow women to wear any shoes they desired.