BY salarium Culture
As HR leaders, we take delight in seeing pro-employee policies see the light of day — especially when those policies promote health and safety in the workplace. The most recent example? The department order signed by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III last August 25: an order that prohibits employers from requiring female workers to wear high heels at work.
The new regulation defines “high heels” as shoes with narrow and pointed heels taller than 1 inch. Shoes with heels taller than an inch may still be worn, but only if they have wide wedges. The initiative is set to take effect 15 days after its publication in a national newspaper. According to a labor group, Philippines is the first country in Asia to ban the mandatory wearing of high heels at work.
They say that end goal is to protect millions of women (particularly those who work as sales ladies, promodisers, waitresses, and flight attendants) from the health and safety risks caused by everyday wearing of high heels. But what are these health and safety risks in the first place? How exactly does the new DOLE rule benefit and protect female employees?
Numerous health research articles show that women who frequently wear high-heeled footwear are likely to suffer from serious postural problems. These problems affect not just the muscles and bones in the feet; they also impact the knees, pelvis, spine, and sometimes even the head.
For starters, the body gets forced out of its natural alignment whenever one wears high heels. The hips and the spine become abnormally flexed and bent forward. In order to make up for this lack of balance, the calf, hip, and lower-back muscles become tense, making one prone to muscle strain and fatigue.
Frequent wearing of high heels can also take its toll on the Achilles tendon, a flexible tissue that helps the feet lie flat or point. The tendon tightens up and shortens, causing the back of the heel to ache once put into flat shoes. An clinical physiology expert points out that such a change can also reduce the ankle’s range of motion, making one more susceptible to strains and sprains.
Health specialists say that wearing high heels can also cause the flattening of the lumbar spine, as well as the posterior displacement of the thoracic spine and the head. One research study concluded that it also puts a great deal of force on one’s kneecaps, paving the way for the early onset of osteoarthritis.
That’s not even mentioning the long list of foot problems one can get from squeezing the feet into pointy-toed high heels: hammertoes (bent and weakened toes), bunions (bony bumps at the base of the big toe), calluses, and Morton’s neuroma (swelling of nerve tissues in the ball of the foot, usually between the base of the third and fourth toes).
In the end, it’s a relief that DOLE issued a rule that genuinely protects women from the above health and safety hazards. If there’s one thing about leadership that this milestone teaches us, it’s that even long-standing workplace rules and policies have to be rethought and challenged, especially if they compromise our health and well-being.