high heel

Will the “high heel” bill in British Columbia be a shoo-in?

By Jeni Marinucci

Employee uniforms are standard form at most restaurants. And for a great many places, a uniform makes sense: they can help ensure safety standards, enhance brand awareness, or simply add to the user experience by furthering aesthetic goals of an establishment. Whether it’s a formalized chain wide uniform or simply a suggested guideline to staff regarding colours and style, you’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant with more than a few employees who don’t have semblance of a uniform.

But what happens when an employer wants a uniform that makes some staff feel uncomfortable – physically or otherwise? One Canadian Premier is trying to enact change as it pertains to requirements some restaurants in her province demand from wait staff. Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia, is now backing a private members bill to see the end of “high heel” footwear requirements for female servers. The Globe and Mail reports that Clark is on board after hearing concerns from the sector, and the proposed bill would “make it illegal for businesses to enforce footwear requirements based on gender in B.C.”

Clark states on her official Facebook page:

“In some workplaces in B.C., women are still required to wear high heels on the job. This isn’t just old-fashioned; in 2017, it’s unacceptable.”

The bill was first introduced by B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver for health and safety concerns, specifically citing “increase(d) risk of slipping and falling on kitchen floors or restaurant stairs,” and physical ailments such as “back problems, bunions and bloody feet.”

Weaver, speaking to The Globe and Mail, said, “It’s a no-brainer. I can’t think of a compelling argument anywhere to say restaurant owners should be allowed to require women to wear high heels in a restaurant. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Some restaurants in that province have made high heels a requirement for female staff. One server says the Vancouver restaurant where she worked had a dress code initially calling for shoes with heels at least 2.5 cm high, until that was reduced to 1.5 cm.

It’s important to note the if the bill passes, high heels will still be allowed as part of dress codes, but that any dress code cannot be gender specific; therefore, if heels MUST be worn, they must be worn by both men and women. Weaver adds: “You can have a dress code, but the dress code must apply to all.”

The bill is getting support from other parties as well, including BC NDP leader John Horgan, and expected to be presented in the provincial legislature soon.

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