The BC government has banned mandatory high heels in the workplace, hoping to end the practice of women being forced to wear high heels by their employers.
The move comes after Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver tabled a bill making it illegal for employers to require female employees to wear high heels.
On Friday, the provincial government amended the existing footwear regulation of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, under the Workers Compensation Act.
In a release, Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs and Minister Responsible for Labour, thanked Dr. Weaver for working with the government to amend the regulation.
“This change will let employers know that the most critical part of an employee’s footwear is that it is safe,” said Bond. “I expect employers to recognize this very clear signal that forcing someone to wear high heels at work is unacceptable.”
High heels are ‘health and safety issue’
The amendment specifies that employers cannot require footwear which does not allow workers to safely perform their job.
The release from the BC government stated:
“The requirement to wear high heels in some workplaces is a workplace health and safety issue. There is a risk of physical injury from slipping or falling, as well as possible damage to the feet, legs and back from prolonged wearing of high heels while at work.”
Therefore, in determining footwear permitted, the following factors must now be considered:
- uneven terrain
- ankle protection and foot support
- crushing potential
- potential for musculoskeletal injury
- temperature extremes
- corrosive substances
- puncture hazards
- electrical shock
- any other recognizable hazard.
According to the release, WorkSafeBC will develop guidelines for employers and employees to support the amended regulation by the end of April.
Speaking previously, BC Premier Christy Clark said she didn’t think it was fair for women to have to wear high heels to work.
“It’s not fair, it’s discriminatory, and for a lot of women, it’s not comfortable… Let’s change it, let’s make sure that isn’t happening in our province.”
Britain debates ban on mandatory high heels
The issue of whether women should be required to wear high heels at work is a hot topic right now.
Already this year, the UK Parliament has debated a ban on mandatory workplace high heels after 150,000 people signed a petition calling for a discussion of the issue.
The petition was started by a 27-year-old receptionist in London, Nicola Thorp, who was sent home after she refused to wear high heels to her temp job.
Her temp agency’s rules not only said she had to wear heels between two and four inches high, but also specified exactly how makeup and nail polish should be used.
The UK debate was not binding, but the British government said existing equality laws protected against this kind of discrimination and should be better enforced in future.