Skip to main content

Premier Christy Clark speaks during a Pink Shirt Day event at the Shadbolt Centre for Performing Arts in Burnaby, British Columbia, Wednesday, February 22, 2017.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A campaign to ban employers from requiring female workers to wear high heels on the job has gained the backing of Premier Christy Clark.

The intent of a private member's bill that would make it illegal for businesses to enforce footwear requirements based on gender in B.C. received support from Ms. Clark, who promised action by the provincial government.

"In some workplaces in B.C., women are still required to wear high heels on the job," Ms. Clark wrote on her verified Facebook page. "This isn't just old-fashioned; in 2017, it's unacceptable."

Story continues below advertisement

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver introduced the private member's bill on International Women's Day over health and safety concerns.

High heels can increase the risk of slipping and falling on kitchen floors or restaurant stairs and cause back problems, bunions and bloody feet, he said in an interview on Monday.

"It's a no-brainer. I can't think of a compelling argument anywhere to say restaurant owners should be allowed to require women to wear high heels in a restaurant," Mr. Weaver said. "It just doesn't make sense."

Keegan Chambers works at a restaurant in Vancouver where female servers were required to wear heels that were at least 2.5 centimetres tall, before it was recently dropped to about 1.25 centimetres.

"Everybody's feet hurt all the time," she said, adding that wearing heels affects safety, efficiency and job performance.

"If I could wear running shoes, I would be a way better waitress."

The new rules wouldn't ban heels from all workplaces, but an employer requiring staff to wear them must have the same requirement for all staff – male and female.

Story continues below advertisement

"You can have a dress code, but the dress code must apply to all," Mr. Weaver said, comparing the new regulations to rules that require everyone on construction sites to wear steel-toed boots.

It's unclear whether Ms. Clark will back Mr. Weaver's bill or bring in separate legislation. She told a news conference her government is looking at the "quickest and simplest" way to implement the change.

"We'd like to get on with it because I think, you know, women shouldn't be forced to wear high heels by their employers. It's not fair. It's discriminatory."

Mr. Weaver said he's not surprised that Ms. Clark jumped on board.

"I literally can't find anyone who opposes this. By and large, people don't realize this is still a thing in 2017," he said.

Opposition NDP Leader John Horgan said he also doesn't have a problem with Mr. Weaver's bill.

Story continues below advertisement

The Green Party leader said he isn't aware of similar legislation anywhere else in the world, but noted the issue was recently discussed by politicians in Britain.

MPs there debated a ban last week on mandatory workplace high heels in response to a petition started by a receptionist who was sent home without pay for wearing flat shoes. The debate was non-binding, but the government promised to act against heel-height rules, makeup guidelines and other corporate codes that apply to women but not to men.

Nicola Thorp was told in December, 2015, that her flat shoes were unacceptable for a temporary assignment in London with finance firm PwC.

Her employment agency, Portico, had a dress code specifying that female workers must wear non-opaque tights, have hair with "no visible roots," wear "regularly re-applied" makeup – and appear in shoes with a heel between five and 10 centimetres high.

Ms. Thorp started an online petition, calling formal workplace dress codes "outdated and sexist." It gathered more than 150,000 signatures, making it eligible for a debate in Parliament.

Asked if he would be willing to introduce legislation banning other aspects of discriminatory dress codes, Mr. Weaver said it's "egregious" that employers require servers to wear short skirts. But he also said there is a subtle difference between requiring a server to wear heels and other discriminatory dress codes.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's hard to argue the health and safety aspect with short skirts," he said. "With the high heels, you can definitely argue the health and safety aspect."

Gossip blogger Elaine Lui discusses how the Sony email hack put the gender pay gap front and centre on her site Lainey Gossip. Sarah Kaplan of the Institute for Gender & The Economy discusses solutions to the gender pay gap The Globe and Mail
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies