Oh, heel no: Alberta moves to ban mandatory high heels at work

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Oh, heel no: Alberta moves to ban mandatory high heels at work


CALGARY—Bosses will no longer be able to require their staff to wear high heels, the Alberta government announced Friday.

In an announcement at an Edmonton restaurant Friday morning, Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray noted how prolonged high heel use has been associated with workplace accidents like tripping and falling, painful foot conditions, and skeletal and muscular injuries.

Employers will no longer be able to require workers to wear unsafe footwear such as high heels, according to new legislation announced by the Alberta government on Friday.
Employers will no longer be able to require workers to wear unsafe footwear such as high heels, according to new legislation announced by the Alberta government on Friday.  (Tim Ireland / The Canadian Press/The Associate)

The province plans to change Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Code to eliminate employers’ ability to require workers to use footwear that could pose health and safety risks, which means servers and bartending staff won’t have to wear them.

This amendment goes into effect on Jan. 1.

“After working almost half my industry career in a workplace that demanded unsafe and uncomfortable footwear, I’m left with chafed feet in the shape of diamonds from the shoes that I wore eight to 10 hours,” said Lisa Caputo, the co-owner of Cibo Bistro in Edmonton, at the announcement.

“It affects my every day now, and it’s been eight years since I’ve had to wear those shoes.”

This new amendment doesn’t apply to footwear made mandatory for safety reasons, like steel-toed boots.

This legislation comes on the heels of other provinces passing similar legislation in the last two years. In 2017, Ontario and British Columbia passed legislation banning footwear that could be hazardous for workers, and earlier this year, Manitoba followed suit.

Gray wanted to use this amendment to the health and safety code to address a gap that currently allows for mandatory high heel policies. The labour minister wanted to ensure workers’ safety was protected, given how physically demanding being a server is.

“We’ve heard from Albertans that some employers have had mandatory footwear policies that put style over safety and require female servers to wear high heels,” Gray said.

Friday’s announcement ties in with the Alberta government’s efforts to protect worker safety. Earlier this year, three basic rights were enshrined in the code for Alberta workers: the right to refuse dangerous work; the right to know about workplace hazards; and the right to participate in workplace health and safety.

Caputo said she’s looking forward to seeing how this change will improve the hospitality industry moving forward and change the attitudes of workers in the sector around Alberta. That change, with workers more satisfied in the job, she hopes will lead to happier customers too.

“Working in an environment where looks and clothing trump service and food, you kind of lose your self-worth as a woman. You are pretty much an object, and that’s kind of what we felt like,” Caputo said.

“They wanted you to look a certain way and be a certain way. So fast forward eight years and now being in a work environment that’s completely opposite of what I worked in, you kind of get that feeling of self-worth back.”

Andrew Jeffrey is a reporter/photographer for StarMetro Calgary. Follow him on Twitter: @andrew_jeffrey


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