Some establishments see profit in the leggy look and demand that their female employees wear high heels. The requirement leaves women vulnerable to an array of health problems and to slips, trips and falls. Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) assaulted the requirement in September, facing down ridicule and a charge of sexism. The union motion obliges establishments with the high heel dress code to conduct health risk assessments – and it allows women to wear comfortable footware if risks are found. As it aims to head off risks, there are ergonomic aspects to the TUC assault.
Britain’s tabloid newspapers represented the motion as an assault on stilettos and on a woman’s right to wear them. A Reuters report quoted a critic who described the TUC move as an attempt to cut women down to size.
In so many words, the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists insists that it is no such thing. The measure was prompted by the facts revealed in members’ surgeries, according to the society, which introduced the motion, in a statement. Workers should be able to wear the footwear that is appropriate to their occupation, working environment, and feet, according to the society, and that means employers should ensure that the risk assessment they have to do by law includes risks to the feet.
“[We] want to ensure women workers are never forced to wear high heels which we believe can lead to foot health problems in the short, medium and long term," said Eddie Saville, director of employment relations.
The statement noted that feet bear the brunt of daily life, and for many workers, prolonged standing, badly fitted footwear and high heels can be a hazard in the workplace. It added that wearing high heels can cause long term foot problems, such as blisters corns and callus, as well as serious foot, knee and back pain and damaged joints.
Around 2 million days a year are lost through sickness as a result of lower limb disorders, according to the society, which points out that Britain’s National Health Service spends millions on foot operations every year.
Britain’s Health and Safety Commission (HSC), the Canada Safety Council and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States all warn against high heels as potential slip, trip and fall hazards. The HSC notes that this class of accident accounts for the highest number of major injuries and occur across all industry sectors.
Sources: TUC; Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists; HSC; CSC; OSHA; Reuters