Career Advice

I was asked to wear heels to work… that’s not on!

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read
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Did you read this article about a woman who was temping in London and was sent home because she had turned up wearing flats and refused to go and buy heels?  I can’t help be outraged…but I am not sure what outrages me more…that someone insisted she couldn't do a receptionist role without heels OR that she thinks that it’s appropriate to start a petition to make it illegal for employers to insist that you do wear heels. And what about being told your makeup had to be within a certain palette of acceptable shades?  Well that would kill ‘green eye-shadow Friday’ right there! 

Firstly… is it right to feel outraged that she was sent home for not wearing high heels?  

For me personally, yes.  I would hate, hate, hate being told what to wear.  And yet by the same token, I have worked for companies with strict dress code guidelines and spent many summers miserably wearing tights and heels.  So it’s not like I haven’t towed the line in my past.  

The issue isn't the dress code – it’s how it’s communicated.  If someone knows, upfront that there is a dress code and are not faced with being sent home for non compliant shoes, then they are more likely to abide by the rules without feeling too much angst about it. So what’s the lesson here?  If you are an employer – make your dress code part of the documents you send out with the employment contract.  

Don’t make a uniform or dress code requirement an embarrassing surprise. If you are a potential employee or temp, find out what the dress code is before you start. Now let’s move onto a broader outrage with this story… Ms Thorp thinks it’s wrong for an employer to demand that a receptionist wear high heels and has started a petition. Her protest has some merit – is it right that an employer can be that specific about what you wear (if it is not a requirement for health and safety reasons)?  

But I think she has been a bit short-sighted...why just limit it to heels?  Why should men in Australia have to suffer wearing long sleeves and ties in 40 degree Celsius weather?  

Why should protests about clothing be limited to women?  The reality is, that fundamentally, many women have far more flexibility on what they can wear in an office than men do anyway; imagine if a bloke rocked up to a corporate office wearing a nice white t-shirt under his jacket?  But women can do this all the time. Lord knows, I do. Overall this story left me feeling a little bemused…and grateful that I am not expected to wear high heels all day, every day.