Manitoba

Mandatory high heels could be taken off the menu at Manitoba restaurants

High heels could be off the menu, thanks to a private member's bill that would prohibit employers from requiring servers to wear them.

NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine introduced private member's bill Wednesday

A private member's bill tabled in Manitoba on Wednesday would ban employers from requiring inappropriate footwear for work, such as high heels. (CBC)

High heels could be off the menu at Manitoba restaurants, thanks to a private member's bill that would prohibit employers from requiring servers to wear them. 

NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine introduced Bill 219, The Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act, on Wednesday.

While it doesn't cover just high heels — but rather any workplace footwear requirements that are inappropriate — Fontaine said it was tabled with female restaurant workers in mind.

"When you go into certain restaurants and you see predominantly young women wearing heels for their five- or six- or eight-hour shift, we have to do better to ensure that women have the proper ability to be safe in the workplace," Fontaine said.

"I would suggest to you that high heels are not conducive to working, being on your feet, for upwards of eight hours on a shift."

The amendments 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 the worker to perform their work safely. 

CBC Marketplace investigated the dress codes at some of Canada's top restaurant chains and heard from dozens of female staff who said they felt pressured to wear revealing outfits, including high heels and short skirts, or risked losing shifts.

Fontaine said the high-heels requirement tends to apply only to women. "It intrinsically sexualizes women in the workplace," she said. "In many respects it is discriminatory solely to women. And I think in 2018 we can do better for women." 

While the legislation would be a first in Manitoba, a petition in 2016 gathered at least 2,000 signatures in support of such a ban, calling on the Manitoba Human Rights Commission to issue a statement.

"I'm thrilled," said Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey, who co-organized the petition. "This has been a long time coming. These are the types of small steps that help us pave the way for bigger goals regarding gender parity and employment equity."

​Tuckett-McGimpsey says she hopes the current government gets on board.

"I hope it passes," she said. "It's the right thing to do."

B.C. introduced a law similar to Fontaine's proposal last year, and Ontario passed its Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act late last year, which includes a ban on employers forcing their female workers to wear high heels.

Asked if a law can affect what workers wear, Fontaine said, "The bottom line is that employers have a responsibility to their employees to ensure that they are creating safe work environments."

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

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said that Ontario is currently considering a ban on high heels at work. In fact, Ontario passed its Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which includes a ban on employers forcing their female workers to wear high heels, late last year.
    Apr 05, 2018 11:34 AM CT