One high-heeled step closer to equality in the workplace

A Canadian province has moved one step closer to banning discriminatory dress codes by prohibiting mandatory high heels in the workplace.

British Columbia’s Green party leader Andrew Weaver introduced a private member’s bill last month. The bill would have made it illegal for employers to require females to wear high heels in the workplace.

Though it has not become law, the government did make revisions to the province’s Workers Compensation Act last week.

The amendment bans the requirement of footwear and material that prevents an employee’s ability to safely perform their tasks.

Things like ankle protection, foot support, bone and muscle-related injuries and slipping are all factors that should be considered by employers when assigning dress codes.

Employees wanting to wear heels in the workplace are still welcome to do so. But the amendment bans the requirement that some employers have placed on their workers to wear high heels.

Nicola Gavins posted a photo of her friend’s bloody feet on Facebook after she was forced to work a shift in high heels at a chain restaurant in Edmonton. (Courtesy Nicola Gavins, Facebook)

As a newsroom made up of students – some of whom work in restaurants, bars and the service industry – the Ryersonian supports this ban. But we must acknowledge that it is a long time coming.

The service industry has long faced criticism for promoting sexist dress codes and selling techniques. We’ve all heard the saying that sex sells.

But there is a fine line between selling a product, and not just allowing but promoting a culture of sexist dress codes to exist. These codes put workers’ safety – and dignity – after good business.

The impact of this on female workers is also well-documented.

The Ryersonian’s own Alexandria Pankratz tackled this issue last month, writing about cash-strapped female students facing sexual harassment in restaurants.

An image of an Edmonton waitress’ bloodied feet made the rounds on Facebook last year after her friend shared it. The Ontario Human Rights Commission also created a policy last year acknowledging that certain mandatory dress codes, involving high heels, short skirts and low-cut tops, could violate the human rights code.

Time and time again, we’ve seen the impact that dress codes and the treatment of women in the workplace can have, both mentally and physically.

And while allowing B.C. women to ditch their heels for work is great, we cannot forget that sexist dress codes are a concern not restricted to borders.

It’s time other provinces follow in B.C.’s flat-soled footsteps.

 

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