Manitoba

NDP bill banning employers from requiring high heels gets government support

A law that would ban employers from requiring female staff to wear high heels is moving forward with support from Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government.

Bill passed second reading on Thursday with support from PCs

Nahanni Fontaine introduced a bill that would prevent employers from requiring female staff to wear high heels on the job. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

A law that would ban employers from requiring female staff to wear high heels is moving forward with support from Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government.

The bill, introduced by NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine on Wednesday, passed second reading in the Legislature on Thursday morning.

If it passes a final vote, Bill 219, The Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act, would prohibit employers from requiring workers to wear footwear that is not "appropriate to the protection required for the worker's work" or does not allow workers to perform their work safely.

Status of Women Minister Rochelle Squires said there are still a lot of questions around who will decide what counts as inappropriate footwear and which industries would be impacted.

"It's predominantly a hospitality industry initiative, so I'm interested in talking to people in the hospitality industry and the restaurant association and getting feedback from them, and also talking to workers who are affected in the workplace," she said.

"I am certainly in favour of any initiative to advance equality for women in the workplace, and if this bill would help advance equality for women in the workplace … then we would be in favour of it."

Status of Women Minister Rochelle Squires says it's 'appalling' that some employers mandate that women must wear high heels to work. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Squires said she finds it "appalling" that women would be mandated to wear certain styles of footwear to work, and that often it's young women working in the hospitality industry.

"I would shudder to think that that would be an unhappy experience for some young girls entering the workforce, showing up on the job and being told you have to wear a certain style of footwear or certain clothing," she said.

Fontaine said she's open to working with the government to improve the legislation.

"At the end of the day, this bill is meant to protect primarily women who are discriminated against in the workplace and if there are ways to strengthen the bill, then certainly that's something that we'll consider," she said.

NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine introduced private member's bill Wednesday, that would prevent employers from forcing their workers to wear high heels on the job. 0:44

The bill doesn't include any specific penalties for employers who don't comply. Fontaine said it will be the government's role to educate employers about the new rules.

"I have faith and I believe that once industries or operations understand that this is now law in Manitoba, I have faith that they would follow that," she said.

Talia Syrie, owner and manager of the Tallest Poppy, said she tells her employees that if they choose to wear high heels, they should bring a backup pair of shoes in case they need to change.

She said kitchens and restaurants are often slippery places, and it's about time changes were made to protect women in the industry.

"I think that honestly it's a no-brainer. I can't believe that it's gone on for this long. Like, when you hear that that's something that's still practised in the industry, it's embarrassing," she said.

The bill will now move to committee. Squires said it's unclear whether the bill will pass before the end of this legislative session. If it doesn't, it may have to be taken up again in the fall.