Wearing of high-heeled shoes by female employees legally prohibited

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My sister is working at a big mall and she told me that she was required to wear at least two-inch high-heeled shoes at work. She also told me that she often suffered from painful leg cramps and had no access to any chair except on short breaks and lunch break. There is nothing else for her to sit on outside her station. She had been assigned as a cashier and, lately, her varicose veins were already showing in her legs. Her work requires her to reach out for customers’ purchases before punching the prices of the items in the cash register. Her waiting time for the next customer strains her legs because she has to remain standing. She also puts the purchases in bags as no bagger is assigned to all of the stations at any time. Is there a law disallowing such practice of requiring the use of high-heeled shoes or that, at least, allows the use of chairs for sales personnel who are required to wear high-heeled shoes at work?
Sincerely yours,
Tamara

Dear Tamara,
Department Order 178, Series of 2017 of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) adopted on August 25, 2017, is apt to the situation of your sister. It states:

“I. Purpose and Coverage

This order shall cover employers or establishments to address the occupational health and safety issues and concerns related to the wearing of high-heeled female shoes and/or standing at work for long periods or frequent walking, such as strain on the lower limbs, aching muscles, hazardous pressure on hip, knee, ankle [and]joints and sore feet.


This shall apply to all workers who by nature of their work, have to stand for long periods at work, or are frequently required to walk, such as retail and/or service employees, assembly-line workers, teachers and security personnel.

II. Occupational Safety and Health Measures for Workers Who Have to Stand

Pursuant to the State policy to ensure the safety and health of women employees and as part of the requirement to formulate policies and implement programs aimed at safeguarding the welfare of workers in accordance with Rules 1000 and 1960 of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Standards and other related issuances, all employers and/or establishments are hereby directed to institute appropriate control measures to address the risks to safety and health of workers while standing at work or frequently walking.

These measures shall include, among others, the following:

Implement rest periods to break or cut the time spent in standing or walking.

Install appropriate flooring or mats that will mitigate the impact of frequent walking and prevent fatigue, such as wood or rubber floorings.

Provide tables or work surfaces with adjustable heights to allow workers to alternately sit and stand while performing their tasks.

Provide readily accessible seats to be used during rest periods or even during working hours, provided the employees can perform their duties in this position without detriment to efficiency. These can be small foldable stools which can easily be stowed away so as not to hamper the work area.

Implement the use of footwear which is practical and comfortable. These should not pinch the feet or toes; are well-fitted and non-slipping; provide adequate cushion and support to the arch of feet; either flat or with low heels that must be wide-based or wedge type and no higher than one inch.

The employers, in consultation with the workers, may adopt other measures to address occupational safety and health concerns of workers who have to stand at work for long periods or whose functions require them to walk frequently.” [Emphasis supplied]

Your sister may seek refuge in this latest DoLE Department Order, given the nature of her work as a saleslady.
Her employer is required to comply within thirty (30) days upon the effectivity of the order, which shall take place fifteen (15) days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. Any deviation on the mandate may subject the company to an inspection pursuant to the existing rules.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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