Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:53 UK

Unions take 'stand' on stilettos

High heeld shoe
Good on the catwalk but not on the shop floor, workers are told

Union members have voted to take a stand against the risks of wearing high heels in the workplace in favour of more "sensible shoes".

Delegates at the TUC congress in Liverpool backed a motion requiring some employers to carry out risk assessments about workers' footwear.

The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists says lower limb injuries cost two million working days a year.

But some unions say individuals should be allowed to wear what they want.

TUC delegates heard some workers were forced to wear high heels as part of their dress code.

'Glamming up'

Lorraine Jones, of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said women shop workers, cabin crew and other employees had to wear high heels as part of a dress code, but this did not apply to men.

She said such shoes put seven times as much pressure on the ball of the foot as flat-soled options.

This well-meant motion will see the union movement portrayed in the media as the killjoy fashion police.
Loraine Monk
University and College Union

This could cause long-term knee injuries, she warned, adding: "We are not trying to ban high heels. They are good for glamming up but they are not good for the workplace.

"Women should have a choice of wearing healthier, more comfortable shoes."

But Loraine Monk, a University and College Union delegate, opposed the move, saying: "This well-meant motion will see the union movement portrayed in the media as the killjoy fashion police.

"Why is it only aimed at women? Hasn't anyone heard of Berlusconi?

"Who decides what is appropriate when it comes to dress codes? My union previously fought a successful campaign against a college that demanded women lecturers had to have their arms covered at all times. Who thought that one up? A man.

"We should list all inappropriate dress in the workplace, not pick on something that is symbolic of a much wider debate about gender roles and is something that many women have a particular view about - both for and against."

The motion stated that all firms which promote high heels should examine the risks that employees wearing them face and, where they are found to be hazardous, they should be replaced with sensible and comfortable shoes.



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