Call to end UK law forcing women to wear high heels

High heels are costing British businesses £260 million ($453 million) a year as women take sick leave for related conditions, an expert has told MPs.

Helen Sewell, 48, a leading communication coach, said entrenched attitudes towards the habit could lead to a "generation of women with serious health problems".

There's an old saying that when a woman gets dressed to kill, she kills off her feet.

Simon Haines Croft, osteopath

In evidence to a Commons committee inquiry on the effect of dress codes in the workplace, Ms Sewell claimed the staggering loss to the economy was caused by absences associated with "inappropriate footwear".

The inquiry was set up after an e-petition of more than 150,000 signatures called for it to be made illegal to require women to wear heels at work.

UK law permits companies to demand female staff wear heels and makeup as part of a dress code.

Dress code

The issue arose when Nicola Thorp - an actress and part-time receptionist - launched the petition after being sent home from her temping job for refusing to wear shoes with a two- to four-inch (5-10cm) heel.

Ms Sewell, a former BBC broadcaster who is now a communication coaching specialist, believes high heels "physically" restrict women's ability to carry out public speaking effectively and is detrimental to their success.

"Wearing heels has a serious impact on your ability to think properly, your ability to breathe properly and ability to deliver an executive presence," she told the petitions committee.

She claimed 7.2 per cent of the workforce take a sick day at least once a year due to voice problems, to which wearing heels is a contributory factor. The evidence leads to an estimate that this costs the economy an average £260 million a year.

Simon Haines Croft, an osteopath, backed the evidence, telling The Telegraph: "There's an old saying that when a woman gets dressed to kill, she kills off her feet."