KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Philippines has banned companies from forcing female employees to wear high heels at work, in a move lauded by a labour union on Monday which said it was one of the first countries in the world to do so to protect women’s rights.
Citing health and safety issues, the Philippines’ labour department said companies can no longer compel women to wear high heels, after four women lodged a complaint to a labour union which took the matter to the authorities.
The department issued the order earlier this month and the union said it would officially take effect on Sept. 29.
“This is good,” Alan Tanjusay from the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, which spearheaded the policy change, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Manila.
“This frees women from a sexist policy and the bondage of unsafe and dangerous working conditions.”
The union spokesman said he believed the Philippines is the first country to impose a nationwide ban after the Canadian province of British Columbia issued a similar order in April this year.
The union spokesman said the practice of ordering women to wear high heels is widespread across the Philippines, especially in industries such as retail, restaurants, airlines and hotels.
Some 1 million Filipina women who are employed as sales assistants will benefit from the policy change, according to the union’s estimates.
The government’s order said companies must allow women to wear practical and comfortable footwear, and cannot compel them to wear shoes higher than one inch (2.5 cm).
Women have reported pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels at work for long periods, according to campaigners.