MP's daughter who was forced to wear heels at work fractured her foot

Hatty Collier
Debate: A parliamentary inquiry was set up after a woman was sent home from work for refusing to wear heels: Shutterstock

An MP has told how her daughter fractured her foot after she was forced to wear high heels at work.

Labour MP Gill Furniss said her daughter was denied sick pay or compensation after suffering a metatarsal fracture - the same injury that put David Beckham out of the 2002 World Cup.

Speaking during a debate in Parliament on workplace dress codes, the MP for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough hit out at employers who force women to put up with “humiliating and degrading” dress codes.

She said some women are told they must wear a "full face" of make-up and are "even told which shade of red" to wear on their lips.

"My own daughter suffered from a metatarsal fracture, which is more commonly affiliated with sports injuries, when she was forced to wear high heels in a former retail job,” Ms Furniss said.

Nicola Thorp, who spoke out about workplace sexism, giving evidence to the petitions committee (Parliament TV)

"Quite literally adding insult to injury, she was denied any compensation or sick pay as she wasn't on the payroll for long enough.

"Needless to say, she did not return to this type of work, but not everyone has that choice."

The debate, in Westminster Hall, comes after more than 150,000 people signed an e-petition calling on ministers to outlaw discriminatory workplace dress codes.

London receptionist Nicola Thorp launched the petition after she was sent home from work when she refused to wear high heels.

The revelations prompted the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee to investigate sexist work dress codes. They called for a review of equality legislation after it emerged that women have been told to dye their hair and wear revealing clothes.

Labour MP Helen Jones, chairwoman of the Petitions Committee, said they heard evidence of "discriminatory" and "totally reprehensible" attitudes towards women.

She said: "It is fair to say that what we found shocked us. We found attitudes that belonged more, I was going to say in the 1950s but probably the 1850s might be more accurate, than in the 21st century.”

Women in heels were expected to climb ladders, move furniture and walk for great distances, she said.

Some would burst into tears at work because their feet would bleed, Ms Jones added.

She said: "But dress codes which impact more on women go much further than making them wear high heels. We heard from women who could not even travel to work without wearing full make-up or they would be disciplined.

"We heard from cabin crew who were all forced to wear the same shade of lipstick.

"We heard from women who were told near Christmas to unbutton their blouses a bit to sell to male customers.

"We even heard of a woman being told to dye her hair blonde."

Women who raised concerns were "belittled" and threatened with the sack, MPs heard.

While the fees charged to bring employment tribunals against the unscrupulous bosses are higher than the amount of compensation usually awarded for indirect discrimination, Ms Jones said.

Equalities minister Caroline Dinenage called on all employers to review their dress codes to reform any offices still retaining a "dodgy 1970s workplace diktat".

She said she had written to key trade bodies about the "outdated and sexist employment practices" uncovered in this case, saying the Government would not tolerate any form of discrimination.