A receptionist has been sent home without pay after refusing to wear heels in an incident which has sparked social backlash online.
Arriving at the office in December last year, she was told she had to wear shoes with a two to four inch heel. After complaining that the male employees were not required to do the same, she was told to go home.
Thorp said she would have struggled to work the full day in heels and asked to wear flats instead.
“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,” she told BBC Radio London.
“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’.”
When she was asked if the same would be expected of a male employee, she was laughed at, she claimed.
She has since created an online petition calling for a change in law so employers cannot force women to wear high heels at work. The petition has garnered more than 10,000 signatures. If it reaches 100,000, the UK government will have to respond.
“I was a bit scared about speaking up about it in case there was a negative backlash,” she said. “But I realised I needed to put a voice to this as it is a much bigger issue.”
The BBC also reached out to PwC about the incident.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
This outsourced supplier was reception firm Portico. Both companies are now in discussions about improving the prescribed dress policies.
Simon Pratt, managing director of Portico, told the BBC that it was “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.”
However, he added that Portico had taken all comments on board and was now reviewing its dress guidelines.
“I don't hold anything against the company,” Thorp said. “They are acting within their rights as employers to have a formal dress code, and as it stands, part of that for a woman is to wear high heels.”
“I think dress codes should reflect society and nowadays women can be smart and formal and wear flat shoes,” she added.
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