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Province takes step to ban mandatory high heels at workplaces in Alberta

From punishing stilettos to modest kitten spikes, policies that force Alberta women to wear high heels on the job will soon be banned in Alberta.

'I conformed to the policy. What are you going to do? Quit your job when you've got bills to pay?'

The province says companies will soon be banned from requiring employees to wear high heels in the workplace. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

From punishing stilettos to modest kitten spikes, company policies that force Alberta women to wear high heels on the job will soon be banned in Alberta.

The Notley government is aiming to ban mandatory heels in the workplace through amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety code, the province announced in a news release Friday.

The changes will prohibit employers from requiring workers to wear shoes that may pose health and safety risks — and provide clarity to employers in the service industry, the province said.

Lisa Caputo was required to wear high heels while working at a chain restaurant for five years, a policy now banned in Alberta. 1:17
 

"I have heard from many Alberta women in the hospitality industry that this change needs to happen," Labour Minister Christina Gray said in a statement.

"I conformed to the policy."

Lisa Caputo, co-owner of Cibo Bistro, worked for a chain restaurant that required her to wear high heels for five years. She's applauding the move by the provincial government.

"Hallelujah! I'm hoping as time goes on we see less and less women in high heels and more comfortable, smiling and happy at their jobs," Caputo said. "So I was ecstatic."

Lisa Caputo, co-owner of Cibo Bistro, pours wine at her restaurant, which encourages employees not to wear high heels. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Caputo says she understands why many women don't speak out against high heel policies.

"I conformed to the policy," she said. "What are you going to do? Quit your job when you've got bills to pay, and you just want to be a grown up and make some money?"

It's been at least five years since she was required to wear high heels while serving at a restaurant. But the shoes have affected the shape of her feet, which requires surgery to correct.

"I didn't even notice that my feet were moving until the end of my fifth year, when I would get home from work and I noticed that my other shoes weren't fitting as well as they used to," she said.

Gray said Caputo's situation highlights the need for the change.

"It's clear that forcing women to wear high heels at work is a bad idea,"  Gray said, adding that prolonged high heel use is associated with workplace injuries

"This is an important change that will help create healthy work environments where workers can do their jobs safely and not be forced to use footwear that creates potential hazards," Gray said.

The changes will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Ontario and British Columbia both banned mandatory high heels in 2017, and a private member's bill calling for a ban is expected to be introduced in Manitoba in April.