-- When Nicola Thorp was sent home from work, without pay, allegedly for not wearing shoes with a heel with a minimum of two inches in height, she said she decided to fight back, getting many of the women of the United Kingdom behind her and ultimately changing a dress code she felt was discriminatory.
After she says Portico promptly sent her home in December 2015 for not wearing heels, she said she resolved not to remain silent about the matter. Outraged, Thorp started a petition, and six months later, was calling on lawmakers to prevent companies from demanding women wear heels at work.
“I looked into it [and] found out it was, in fact, a gray area in British law that my employer was sort of acting within their rights, arguably,” Thorp said. “So, I Googled, ‘How do I change the law?’”
Professional women sounded off on Twitter in support of Thorp’s mission, defiantly posting pictures of themselves wearing flats. Her petition for a law ensuring no company could mandate that women wear heels to work gained more than 150,000 signatures, spurring a review by two parliamentary committees.
And now, her hard work has paid off.
The parliamentary committees concluded that Portico, the outsourcing firm that gave Thorp the high heel ultimatum, had broken the law.
On January 10, the committees came out with a report stating the existing rules have not been applied properly and discriminatory dress codes remain widespread. They suggested that the government review the existing rules, and employers who do not abide by them should face penalties.
As of now, no laws have been changed. In March, the committees will hold a hearing to address next steps to amend the existing laws to more clearly state the specific dress code guidelines.
Portico announced on Wednesday it has rewritten its code and dropped the two- to four-inch heel requirement, among others.
“We fully support the recommendations within the report and welcome the debate in Parliament in March,” Simon Pratt, managing director of Portico, said in a statement, responding to the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee report, issued Wednesday. “Portico has always been committed to being an inclusive and equal opportunities employer so when this issue was raised last year we immediately updated our uniform guidance.”
Portico “provides front of house reception services to companies in the U.K. such as PwC,” PwC explained in a comment to ABC News. “The dress code in question was Portico's and the supervisor who sent Ms. Thorp home worked for Portico."
“We're very sorry that the incident ... took place under our roof,” PwC added. “We took immediate action to review the policies of all our suppliers, to ensure that they made them fair and inclusive. PwC itself has a longstanding flexible dress code in place and we want the policies of our suppliers to reflect our own.”