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UK Legislators Are Fighting Back Against Sexist Dress Codes, Thanks to One Woman

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How would you feel if your employer sent you home without pay just for wearing flats instead of stilettos? That's exactly what happened to actress and temp receptionist Nicola Thorp in December 2015. After arriving to work, she was told by her temp supervisor that she'd have to leave and purchase a pair of heels that met company regulations before she could come back and continue her work.


After her experience, she drafted a petition asking Parliament to create consequences for companies that uphold sexist dress codes. Unsurprisingly, the online petition quickly garnered more than 152,000 signatures and caught Parliament's attention. In response, the Petitions Committee issued a survey to find out how many other women in the UK were facing similar discriminatory regulations. Commenting on the results of the survey, committee Chair Helen Jones told the BBC, "It's clear...that Nicola's story is far from unique." On Jan. 25 of the following year, the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee published a report stating that Nicola's employer's rules (which also included regulations on nail polish color and lipstick application) were actually unlawful. One government spokesperson told the BBC, "No employer should discriminate against workers on the grounds of gender—it is unacceptable and is against the law." They went on to state that "Dress codes must be reasonable and include equivalent requirements for both men and women." Since the report has been published, the Government Equalities Office has promised to work with its partners to ensure all companies are adhering to the law. 

While she considers this a win, Thorp is still (rightfully) concerned with the current state and future of women's equality. "I refused to work for a company that expected women to wear makeup, heels, and a skirt. This is unacceptable in 2017," she explained. "People say sexism is not an issue anymore. But when a man who has admitted publicly to sexually harassing women is the leader of the free world, it is more crucial than ever to have laws that protect women."

Well said, Nicola, and thank you for standing up for what is right.


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