A Canadian province has amended rules to stop employers from requiring women to wear high heels to work, calling such dress codes discriminatory as well as dangerous for health.
Premier of British Columbia (BC) Christy Clark and Labour Minister Shirley Bond said in a statement on Friday (7 April) that the dress code policy requiring women to wear high heels "is a workplace health and safety issue".
Whether women should wear high heels to work has become a hotly debated topic in the recent past, with many women activists terming it a sexist practice and medical experts flagging health concerns.
In Canada, the restaurant industry especially has been accused of judging women not on their abilities and achievements but on the length of their legs and the height of their heels.
Julie Nugent, vice-president and centre leader at the Catalyst Research Centre for Corporate Practice, told CTV News, "When you think about dress and physical appearance, women face higher standards in a lot of cases than men."
She added that this kind of scrutiny "could even take away a woman's abilities or her leadership style".
The provincial government's statement said: "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." It added that footwear should be designed to let workers operate comfortably and safely.
The new regulation, which was drafted by WorkSafeBC, said that workplace footwear must be of "a design, construction and material that allows the worker to safely perform their work and ensures that employers cannot require footwear contrary to this standard".
The discriminatory dress terms of the policy were scrapped after a provincial Green party politician – Andrew Weaver – introduced a bill in the BC legislature in March, which aimed to prevent employers from setting gender-based footwear requirements.
Weaver's bill covered all workstations, including retail and corporate offices. But the provincial government chose to amend the footwear rules under the Workers' Compensation Act rather than implementing the bill.
Premier Clark said that in some regional workplaces, women were unfairly required to wear high heels. "Like most British Columbians, our government thinks this is wrong. That is why we're changing this regulation to stop this unsafe and discriminatory practice," she said.
The new guidelines are expected to be available by the end of April, the BBC reported.