Sunday, 9 August 2009

Should high heels be forbidden in the office?

If there is a weakness that most women share it is without a doubt our love for shoes. This passion usually embraces us when we turn into teenagers and never leaves us again. My grandmother still tried to wear her beloved heels when she was arguing with my father if she needs a hip replacement or can cope with the pain!

But high heels in the office are again and again at the forefront of discussions as well.

Not long ago a female colleague fell down the stairs and broke her leg. She couldn't remember why she fell, but that didn't stop our health and safety department to send out a memo with the warning that "High Heels Are A Serious Safety Risk". All female staff (well, nobody expected the guys to come in with their heels!) should seriously consider putting themselves at risk for vanity. If they could not resist wearing heels they should please use the lift or use both hands to hold on to the railings when walking down the stairs.

You think that's patronising? Well, we thought. A large number of complaints about this memo were sent to the health and safety department, but we were told that the memo was sent out for our safety and that the company can't be held liable if we don't follow this guidance.

Well, I can't blame the company for trying to protect themselves, but as a woman it is quite difficult not to wear heels at work. You need to look smart - and heels help you to do that. And to progress without looking the part is certainly more difficult than it already is!

The Trade Union Congress - and its mainly male members - have now advised that 'high heels should be banned from the workplace' as they pose a risk to health and safety.

I think this is health and safety gone mad. I can understand that there is a risk involved with wearing very high heels. And I appreciate the concern of the "Mr. Bosses". But we women wear high heels day in, day out - whilst going shopping, going for a walk with the children, driving cars... I even know women who are so used to wearing heels that they find it difficult to balance without them - they say their feet have adjusted to the heels.

But more to the point, it is the women's choice. It is no more dangerous to wear heels at work than at home. We don't tell men what to wear, so women should have to right to choose themselves.

Heath and Safety can go too far at times and I am sure there are more important things to discus than if a woman should be allowed to wear heels when entering the office, or if she needs to leave them outside in the car.

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