When HR policy becomes PR disaster – heels cause a kerfuffle!

Sometimes HR policies need to be viewed not only from a legal perspective or in the light of potential employment tribunals, but more importantly in terms of the potential PR disasters that can ensue.
One such case was the widely reported story of temporary receptionist who was asked to wear high heels in place of her flat shoes when she reported for the first day of her temp job working for Portico, the outsourced staff provider for accountancy firm PwC. Nicola Thorp says she was asked to leave when she flat refused to change into heels.
Ms Thorp went on to set up an online petition, which got picked up by several media outlets and from there the story has taken off across the nation. The employer has faced some ridicule. With headlines such as “Is it legal to force women to wear high heels at work?”
What does this mean for employers?
Although, in the eyes of the law, it is reasonable for a business to request a specific dress code, sometimes a more pragmatic view may be appropriate.
Clearly if your dress code relates to safety issues, you’re unlikely to get in the same kind of hot water, however if your policies could in any way be construed as discriminatory, they may be worth reviewing, especially if you’ve had them in place for some time.
A few moments reviewing things now may save some unwanted headlines in the future.