Alberta bans policies requiring high heels in the workplace

Dec 3 2018, 10:05 pm

Albertan feet will be able to rest a little easier thanks to an upcoming change to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Code (OHS).

After an online survey found that the vast majority of employers (78%), workers (88%), and safety professionals (82%) voiced that they agreed with preventing clothing or footwear policies that create a hazard for workers, the Government of Alberta has decided to ban employers from requiring that their employees wear shoes that could cause a safety risk — including high heels.

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An amendment to the OHS will take effect on January 1, 2019, at which time any restaurant employees who had previously been required to wear high heels for their job will be able to show up to work in more comfortable shoes.

“I have heard from many Alberta women in the hospitality industry that this change needs to happen. It’s clear that forcing women to wear high heels at work is a bad idea,” said Minister of Labour Christina Gray, in a release from the Government of Alberta.

“This is an important change that will help create healthy work environments where workers can do their jobs safely and not be forced to use footwear that creates potential hazards.”

While the amendment is not only for those employees who have had to put up with mandatory high heels as part of their uniform, much of what is outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Hazardous Footwear information document revolves around the bane of restaurant workers.

“Some types of footwear (eg high-heeled shoes) can put workers at an increased risk of slips, trips, falls, and musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs). In most cases, this footwear is not necessary for workers to perform their work,” the document states.

“This hazard can be more prevalent in work such as serving food, which requires workers to navigate busy spaces while carrying food. For some workers, prolonged use may result in additional health issues, such as joint pain or back problems. These effects are most likely to occur when footwear is not well suited to the work environment where it is used.”

While this does not mean that high heels are prohibited from the workplace, it ensures that no employer will be legally allowed to require that type of footwear.

The updated amendments hit close to home for Calgary’s own Lisa Caputo, the owner of Cibo Bistro.

“I worked under a mandatory high heel policy and now surgery is the only option to correct the damage done to my feet,” Caputo said in the release.

“Working in an environment that prioritizes safety and comfort over looks creates a welcoming workplace. This change will protect women’s safety and will help to change the way women are viewed in the workplace.”

Both Ontario and BC passed laws that banned mandatory footwear policies that could put workers in danger, and Manitoba did the same in 2018.

Chandler WalterChandler Walter

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