The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists has tabled a motion at the 2009 TUC Congress highlighting the foot health problems high heel shoes can inflict on women’s feet. Many are forced to wear high heels as part of employer dress codes which can lead to long term foot and back problems.For further information on working feet see the working feet leaflet
The 2008 TUC Working feet and footwear - Health and safety at work guidance report estimated that around 80 per cent of the adult population have some form of foot problem. It is also believed that around 2 million days are lost to the economy through sickness absence as a result of lower limb disorders. While not all of these are a result of work activities, a large proportion is. Our feet are exposed to many dangers at work and, like every other danger; the risk can be avoided or removed if employers take simple straightforward steps to protect their workers.
Workers should be able to wear the footwear that is appropriate to their occupation, working environment, and feet. That means employers should ensure that the risk assessment they have to do by law includes risks to the feet.
Women workers should not be made to adhere to a dress code that can damage their feet and should have the choice to wear footwear that will not leave them prone to long term foot health problems. In addition women should feel secure in the knowledge that their employers will support them in maintaining healthy feet.
The motion to the 2009 TUC congress asks employers to work in partnership with trade unions, staff, and local Health and Safety reps to ensure that proper risk assessments are carried out, and where high heels are deemed a health risk should be replaced with comfortable shoes.
Eddie Saville, Director of Employment Relations commented, "This is a serious issue for women in the workplace, and we at the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists want to ensure women workers are never forced to wear high heels which we believe can lead to foot health problems in the short, medium and long term."
Feet bear the brunt of daily life, and for many workers prolonged standing, badly fitted footwear, and in particular high heels can be a hazard in the workplace. Around 2 million days a year are lost through sickness as a result of lower limb disorders.
In 2007 the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists launched its working feet campaign to give women some helpful foot care advice on how ‘working feet’ problems can be avoided. Following this campaign in 2008 the TUC issued guide called "Working Feet and Footwear" which includes a checklist for the Health and Safety Representatives.
Many employers in the retail sector force women workers to wear high heels as part of their dress code. Wearing high heels can cause long term foot problems, such as blisters corns and callus, to serious foot, knee and back pain, and damaged joints. However more needs to be done to raise awareness of this problem so that women workers and their feet are protected.
Congress calls on all employers who have dress codes that promote high heels to examine the hazards their women workers face and ensure that proper risk assessments are carried out, and that where these show the wearing of high heels is hazardous they should be replaced with sensible and comfortable shoes.
High heels may look glamorous on the Hollywood catwalks but are completely inappropriate for the day to day working environment.
For further comment please contact:
Eddie Saville, Director
Employment Relations Department
Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists
1 Fellmongers Path
Tower Bridge Road
London SE1 3LY
Notes to Editors
The TUC guide to working feet is available on www.tuc.org.uk/extras/footwear.pdf
The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists is the biggest professional body and trade union for registered chiropodists and podiatrists in the UK. It provides educational and professional support and guidance for registered chiropodists and podiatrists.
Women in jobs such as air stewardesses and shop-workers are required to wear court shoes or high heels as part of their dress code. The Society’s spokesperson Emma Supple spoke on ITN lunch time news on Wednesday 16 September 2009, high- lighting the long term health risks of wearing heels in the workplace.
Following that motion, The Society has also featured in The Independent, Metro, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and all national papers.
"Two million working days are lost a year through lower limb problems, we are not trying to ban high heels as they are good for ‘glamming’ up but they are not for the workplace" podiatrist and Society spokesperson Lorraine Jones was quoted in the Metro newspaper.