“Going viral” is all the rage these days, although it is normally reserved for a particular craze or cats. However, the latest sensation relates to accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and a receptionist who was sent home for refusing to wear high heels. As is the way with matters that go viral, all the details can be found on the internet, including whether it is legal to have a dress code which includes the necessity to wear high heels (short answer – maybe).

Perhaps the more surprising, and less reported, point is that this actually occurred 5 months ago. The individual concerned, Nicola Thorp, whilst acknowledging that there was probably nothing unlawful about what had happened, took exception to her treatment and set up a petition seeking to outlaw such requirements. If the petition gained 100,000 signatures, then the question would be considered for debate in Parliament. Five months later and details about this are everywhere, so much so that Nicola has at the time of writing just hit her target of signatures and, as a result, has led to Portico, the agency who supplied Nicola to PwC, changing their policy.

It is difficult to say what ingredients are required to make a viral internet success. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of these petitions set up every month that don’t get the same attention. In any event, even though it is arguable that neither PwC nor Portico had done anything legally wrong, it has not stopped quite a bit of adverse publicity being directed their way.

Even if you have a dress code policy in place which is lawful, it may be prudent to have a think about why you have particular requirements, just in case someone decides to disagree with it and you then have to make statements attempting to justify your actions to the national and international press!

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