Illustration by Ashley Siebels
Women working in the Canadian province of British Columbia — which includes Vancouver — won’t be forced to wear heels at work any more.
Government officials in the province, frequently just called “BC,” announced that corporate rules requiring women to wear heels were “unsafe and discriminatory.” The province’s existing Workers Compensation Act has been amended to liberate women from the requirements to wear pinching, painful high-heeled pumps.
Premier Christy Clark commented on the new policy: “In some workplaces in our province, women are required to wear high heels on the job. 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 and adding an enforcement element by WorkSafeBC,” Clark said.
BC already gives female employees protection against sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination as part of its Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and parts of its Human Rights Code.
High heels increase injuries
The new rule on high-heeled shoes comes because they are, as it turns out, are too dangerous — literally.
That’s why the new rules come as part of the province’s workers’ safety rules. Previously, a local official, BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, had filed a private member’s bill to achieve the same end, “designed to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity.” The new rules, however, won’t require a vote now as they would as a piece of legislation.
And any woman who has worn heels can attest to how painful and dangerous they can be.
“The requirement to wear high heels in some workplaces is a workplace health and safety issue. 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,” the statement said.
WorkSafeBC will reportedly release a more thorough “workplace guideline” by the end of this month.
The new rule is a response to years of rumbling on the topic for a while now.
Dress codes are updated for the future
The move was expected, spurred by outrage over restaurants that required hostesses and other female employees to wear high heels, skirts, and other clothes designed to signal femininity. Canadian restaurant franchise Earls Kitchen + Bar in Vancouver announced that it would let employees wear black pants instead of skirts on the same day that the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) called for an end to “sexualized workplace dress codes.”
— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) March 12, 2017
Canada is not the only site of the revolution against heels.
Last month, British lawmakers debated sexist workplace dress codes in Parliament after former temp worker Nicola Thorp started a petition to overthrow sexist workplace dress codes. Thorp became an icon to many English women after she refused to accept her company’s rules requiring women to wear heels two to four inches high. She told to leave work in December 2015 because of her flat footwear.