Last week the TUC Congress passed a resolutions that read “Congress believes that high heels may look glamorous on the Hollywood catwalks but are completely inappropriate for the day-to-day working environment”. The motion was tabled by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists who are concerned about the £10million a year cost to the NHS for bunion correction! This little snippet has raised hysterical headlines in many of the major newspapers in the country and polarised commentators (see below).
Lorraine Jones from the Society of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said it was 'discriminatory' that women shop workers, cabin crew and other employees had to wear high heels as part of a dress code, but not men. Ms Jones, a practising podiatrist said: "This is not a trivial problem. Two million working days are lost every year through lower limb and foot-related problems. Two million working days equates to £300 million contribution to the economy”
“We are not trying to ban high heels - they are good for glamming up but they are not good for the workplace. Women should have a choice of wearing healthier, more comfortable shoes” she added.
The TUC motion was passed unanimously - shame that the same could not be done for equal pay issues.
Stilettos - what is all the fuss about?
Yes, most women know that high heels are murder on the feet and they’ll probably regret wearing them in their old age, but is this really a workplace issue worthy of a resolution at a Union congress? Consider, for example the fact that sedentary lifestyles created in workplaces like offices and call centres may be a major cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. And isn’t Britain currently experiencing the highest levels of obesity in generations? I’m pretty sure some of these people are office workers.
Then there is the lack of training in using dangerous equipment like an office kettle, electronic staplers, document printers the size of houses, guillotines and, of course, the ubiquitous computer. Sitting in front of one for eight hours a day doesn’t do much for one’s eyesight and back. Isn’t chronic back pain one of the most common reasons for employee illness?
Of course, there is always work-related stress, high blood pressure and alcoholism. Stress can also lead to excessive smoking, drug taking, depression and a host of other illnesses. In short, there are plenty of health issues that the TUC could be considering - 6-inch stiletto heels are really the least of their worries.
Admittedly if you work in construction or as a window cleaner you might not want to wear your Manolos to work and many employers have had to include a clause in employee contracts preventing staff from high heels….but this is because of the specialist equipment and warehouse conditions at work premises. I am not sure if such a clause is even legal, but it does concentrate the mind of ‘newbies’ on how quickly they can trip up on loose strapping tape and perforated grills, and, more importantly, what damage it would do to their shoes! But in and office surely there would be no issues about high heels. Most offices are carpeted and the sum total of movement is usually between a carpeted office to carpeted meeting room.
Is this equality gone completely mad?
Women’s groups and feminists have grasped the issue as one of sexism. The TUC and Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists as one of health and safety and the rest of us…perhaps we just chalk it up to the “silly season”.
Those who don’t wear high heels clearly don’t know the immediate feeling of empowerment you get; the change in your gait as you sashay along the corridor of power, not to mention the added inches to one’s height and ego. And finally, let’s not forget that high heels are all about being sexy. Just as Carrie (in ‘Sex and City’) gushes over the latest Jimmy Choos (cockney rhyming slang for shoes?) and begs a mugger not to take her Manolo Blahniks, women’s psyches are very much wrapped up with footwear. Many women I know, who are rational, successful, and ‘normal’ often start by thinking of which shoes they want to wear and then work up to the outfit that’ll match!
Work Life is hard enough – people telling us what to wear and what not to wear, what we can and can’t do, what we can earn and what we can’t, whether we can progress up the career ladder or not, whether we should just give it all up if pregnant and whether we’ll ever make to the top or not – I say, just leave us alone to decide about the stilettos issue for ourselves.
Newspaper stories on the TUC 'Stilettos' issues:
Daggers drawn over stilettos [The Independent, 16 September 2009]
Unions rally to defend workers against the common foe: killer heels [The Times, 16 September 2009]
High heel ban plan shock [The Sun, 16 September 2009]
Women defend right to wear heels as 'kill joy' union bosses condemn stilettos in the workplace[The Daily Mail, 16 September 2009]
Banning heels is the height of stupidity [London Evening Standard, 17 September 2009]