‘Toeing the line’

  • By Judith Sullivan
  • 05 Apr, 2017
  • 10 Mar, 2017

  • Author/blogger Reggie Simpson

Parliament debates workplace dress codes

Remember when Naomi Campbell tripped and fell on the catwalk wearing super high platform shoes during a Vivienne Westwood show in 1993? She laughed it off; we guffawed. Here was one of the top supermodels dubbed the ‘Trinity’ purported to ‘not wake up for less than $10,000 a day’.

I suppose Campbell’s ‘fall from grace’ was an occupational hazard.

Speed forward to 2017. The average woman can hardly afford to lounge in bed, and she most likely (and sensibly) will not totter around in platform shoes in the workplace. However, high heels and other compulsory dress code attire for women have become symbols of workplace sexism and discrimination.

In a week that celebrated International Women’s Day (‘Be Bold for Change’), Parliament convened a meeting on 6 March to consider an e-petition submitted by Nicola Thorp focused on high heels and workplace dress codes.  The petition had 152,420 signatures.

In December 2015, Ms Thorp was sent by Portico for a job as a temporary receptionist at the headquarters of PriceWaterhouseCoopers in London. When she arrived, Ms Thorp was told that the smart black shoes she was wearing were unacceptable because they were flat; at the time, Portico’s dress code specified a heel height of between two and four inches—for women, not men. She was offered the opportunity to go out and buy a pair of high heels. When she refused, she was sent home without pay.

Speaking on behalf of the petition, Helen Jones (Warrington North, Lab) MP said:

‘There was never a suggestion that Ms Thorp was not smartly dressed … Secondly, it was clear that wearing high heels was a requirement that impacted far more on women than on men.  In fact, most of Portico’s dress code at the time was about how women should look.  Not only were women to wear high heels but they were compelled to wear make-up’.

When the issue was first raised with the parliamentary Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee this past January, there was shock and disbelief that such workplace attitudes and practices still exist.

Make-up and dress aside, we at Betafeet Podiatry and within the wider foot care profession take particularly interest in High Heel Gate (or is that High Hell Gate?).  

According to the Hon MP Jones:

‘There are people who think that we should not have investigated this at all—in fact, they think it is a bit of a joke. Yes, it is true that women sometimes wear high heels, but there is plenty of evidence about the damage from wearing heels long term; that is well known and has been for some time. We received written evidence from the College of Podiatry and individual podiatrists on our web forum setting out just what that damage is. Wearing high heels long term alters balance, reduces flexion in the ankle and weakens calf muscles. Over time, that can make women much more prone to a number of problems, including stress fractures, Morton’s neuroma, ankle sprains and bunions, and it causes a reduction in balance that lasts into old age, putting people more at risk of falls’.

See Betafeet Podiatry’s previous blog on the effects of wearing high heels:


From a corporate risk assessment standpoint, companies should review their dress code policy, not least for health and safety reasons, but also reputational risk and/or litigation consequences. To its credit, Portico has since changed its dress code policy.

Watch this space for further steps, hopefully in the right direction.

Note: Men, please forgive me for not commenting on any of your own possible workplace dress code issues. That is for another parliamentary debate.

By Judith Sullivan 09 Dec, 2017
By Reggie Simpson
By Judith Sullivan 28 Sep, 2017

We are delighted to announce that prose written by our Practice Business Manager, Reggie Simpson, will be featured in the Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s Rhyme & Reason 2018 diary, now in its 26th year. The theme for this forthcoming year’s diary is ‘Freedom’. All proceeds from sales of the diary go to support this worthwhile charity.

Reggie says: ‘Although my entry wasn't among the top poetry and prize winners, I was chuffed to be selected for the 2018 diary. The theme was quite broad, but my degrees in politics and love of writing invariably drew me to entering the competition. In the end I settled on a focus of freedom in healthcare, no doubt inspired by my current employment at Betafeet Podiatry and the noble work of Rennie Grove Hospice Care ( www.renniegrove.org ).

Rennie Grove Hospice Care, formally known as Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, merged with Grove House, St Albans in 2010 to integrate services in south western Hertfordshire. The ethos and values of the two charities were closely aligned with the principle of allowing patients to lead a good quality of life at home for as long as possible, helping patients and their families avoid the distress of unnecessary hospital visits whenever possible.

The diaries can be ordered from the Rennie Grove website, payment by debit/credit card. It's part of their annual Christmas/holiday promotion. There will also be copies in local Rennie Grove shops. They are £5 each with additional postage if bought online. Shop locations can be found here: http://www.renniegrove.org/support/our-shops/online-shop/page/2/ .

Here is Reggie’s entry (to appear in the month of September 2018): 

‘Do not count the days; make the days count.’

Muhammad Ali. Professional Boxer.  Audacious. Charismatic. A winner in the ring.

But even when you have won it all, life throws you a few more punches.

Yes, his name opened doors and wealth, but the bombastic man of his younger years was humbled in later life, and following retirement, he dedicated himself increasingly to charitable work. Parkinson’s was already taking hold.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest honour the USA can bestow.   He died in June 2016, aged 74.

Now the news is about boxing helping dementia sufferers.

So what does this mean for freedom? Does getting battered around the head spell freedom and choice? One would say yes; a boxer is free to take such risks. When the consequences deal you a fatal blow as a result, when do you lose your freedom? Is it when you have been reduced to a shadow of your former self, a normal human being, and have to rely on others? Muhammad Ali likely had plenty of resources to ensure his final days would help him on his final journey.

We tend to think of freedom in political terms. It is hard to remove freedom in healthcare from politics. Think NHS reform, among others. Freedom in a healthcare environment means more to the individuals and families when they have life-limiting illnesses and need the care of volunteer-run hospices such as Iain Rennie Grove.

The NHS gives patients the rights to make choices about different aspects of the care they receive, from the different treatment options available. How these are chosen is individual, although for those with life threatening or limiting illnesses this choice will fall on family members. 

I quote the following:

‘In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties’.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Philosopher

September is World Alzheimer’s Month.




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