BIG FOUR firm PwC has labelled the row over one of its employees’ work clothing as ‘embarrassing’ and has said it will review its suppliers’ employment policies in detail as a result.
Nicola Thorp, a 27 year-old temporary worker from Hackney arrived to work at one of PwC’s London offices on 7 December 2015 only to be told she must wear shoes “with a two-to-four inch heel” and was subsequently sent home without pay by the outsourced staff agency Portico, which provides PwC’s receptionists.
PwC subsequently told Portico to review and revise its policy, which the company changed so that “female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes or plain court shoes as they prefer”.
On 14 May, PwC released a 350-word statement entitled Stepping up – what a pair of heels has taught us, in which Gaenor Bagley, executive board member and head of people at PwC, revealed she personally apologised to Thorpe.
“As a business that places diversity at the heart of our organisation, the fact that the debate over high heels at work was sparked by an incident while Ms Thorp was due to work at one of our offices is embarrassing. That’s why we took immediate action with the contractor that employed Ms Thorp.
“We work together with our suppliers to make sure that they match our sustainability aspirations. But we have learnt the hard way that it is critical that the employment policies and values of our supply chain reflect our own. We are reviewing our suppliers’ employment policies in detail as a result.”
Bagely added that she and PwC believe everyone should be allowed to be themselves at work and are “committed to promoting equality in the workplace”, noting that PwC were one of the first firms to publicly report its gender pay gap.
On 10 May 2016 Thorp shared her story on Twitter, announcing that she has set up a petition that aims to make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work.
Thorp’s petition to ban the rule receiving over 134,000 signatures, surpassing the 100,000 target needed for the issue to be considered for debate in the Houses of Parliament.
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