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Receptionist stands up to high heel requirement

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Beauty is pain, according to some workplace dress codes.

Nicola Thorp, a 27-year-old who wore flats on her first day as a temporary receptionist for PwC in London, told media outlets that she was sent home without pay when she refused to buy a pair of heels between two and four inches high.

Nearly six months later, Ms. Thorp has collected more than 127,000 signatures in a petition that asks Britain's Parliament to make it illegal for firms to require that women work in heels, stating that such requirements are “outdated and sexist.”

But rather than a question of keeping up appearances, the debate could ultimately revolve around workplace health and safety. Up to one-third of women suffer permanent problems, such as osteoarthritis of the knee, plantar fasciitis and low back pain, as a result of frequently wearing high heels, according to the American Osteopathic Association.

Portico, the staffing agency that placed Ms. Thorp at PwC, allegedly set the uniform guidelines and has since reviewed its policy, according to reports.