By Ehlorra Mangahas

THE practice of forcing women employees especially those in the service industry to wear high heels must be stopped as it is unfair and clearly a form of sexism.

Because beneath the sweet smiles of comely and neatly-dressed salesladies and waitresses in any major shopping malls and high-class restaurants, hide the intolerable pain and hardship that they have to endure everyday just to earn a living and support their respective families.

And it has long been the policy in the service industry such as malls, hotels, airlines – that female employees had to wear shoes with heels up to two inches high for the flimsiest reasons of making them more attractive to their customers.

If it is not sexist then we do not know what it is.


No Regulation

An OpinYon source disclosed that not only it was the de rigueur in shopping malls for sales assistants to wear high heels, they often had to endure standing on them from morning till night, seven days a week.

Most of these employees, the source said, are often paid minimum wage which was not justified considering the hardships these women have to endure just to stay on their jobs.

The Philippines currently has no government regulation regarding the wearing of high heels in the workplace, with the decision often left to the discretion of employers.

Such policies, grounded on the ingrained perception that more attractive-looking women often bring better sales, have been decried by unions and women’s groups as not only a “sexist” policy but one that endangers female health and safety.



Women bearing the brunt of this societal norm may, however, soon find relief.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III recently disclosed plans by his agency to finally ban the high-heels requirement in workplaces, especially by women whose work requires them to stand for hours.

Bello recently announced his orders to the DOLE’s Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC), the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) and the Bureau of Special Working Concerns (BSWC) to immediately craft a policy that will prohibit employers, particularly shopping malls and hotels, from requiring their employees to wear high heels.

Not only that, but employers will now be prohibited from requiring salesladies and security guards to stand for long hours if the DOLE policy pushes through.

“The wearing of high-heeled shoes and standing for long hours or during the entire duration of their duty is an occupational safety and health hazard,” Bello pointed out.

The DOLE’s prohibition will soon also cover promodizers in supermarkets, waitresses, hotel and restaurant receptionists and flight attendants.


Appeal from Unions

Bello’s order stemmed from the appeal aired by the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) to spare women from wearing high heels.

Per ALU-TUCP national executive vice president General Seno, he cited studies which showed that women wearing shoes with high heels were most likely to suffer from postural disorders affecting the positioning of the head, including the spine, pelvis and knees.

“This must be stopped. Women workers should not be compelled to put on high heeled shoes against their will. They should not be exposed to any harm and danger at all times,” the group said.


Worldwide Practice

The ALU-TUCP’s appeal – and the DOLE’s decision to ban the use of high heels – came on the heels of several campaigns around the world to ban – or at least regulate – the use of high heels due to health and safety reasons.

The high heels policy is not unique to the Philippines; in most Western countries, women working in service industries had long been subjected to wearing high heels so that they appear to be taller and more attractive.

However, as far back as the 1950s, concerns have been raised as to how safe high heels really are for women in the workplace. 

During that time, when the very narrow "stiletto" heel was the fashion, building owners in the United States became concerned that the large number of heels would damage certain types of floor coverings, or worse, cause accidents through heels getting caught in floor grills, gaps in planking, or uneven surfaces. 

The problem was such that a 1963 article in a US building maintenance magazine stated that "replacement of floors is estimated to have cost at least half a billion dollars throughout the country since the advent of the stiletto heel fashion."

Several workplace studies conducted in Western countries have also shown that high proportions of women working in the restaurant industry report that they have tripped, slipped, or fallen while at work, with many of them reporting that they have suffered injuries because of falls while wearing high heels. 



Such was the discomfort of women subjected to the societal norms of high heels that several campaigns have been launched to force businesses and governments to relax the high heels regulation. 

In 2001, waitresses in Las Vegas, Nevada organized a “Kiss My Foot” campaign to get casinos to relax their high heels rule – with success. 

In 2015, the management of Israeli airline El Al became involved in a dispute with its union after the latter advised its female members to disregard the company’s policy of wearing high heels until after all the passengers are seated.

Early this year, a debate erupted in the British parliament on whether employers should be able to make women wear high heels as part of a corporate dress code.

The issue stemmed from an online petition filed by Nicola Thorp, a receptionist who claimed that she was sent home without pay for wearing flat shoes in violation of her company’s dress code. 

The petition, however, was ultimately rejected in Parliament.

And just last April, the province of British Columbia in Canada decided to amend the province’s workplace legislation to prevent employers to force women to wear high heels at work


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Thursday, 19 October 2017
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