The news that union members at the TUC Congress are eager to ban high heels in the workplace, for health and safety reasons, confirms a number of our long-held theories. First, that dreaming up health and safety hazards is more of a hobby than a job for union officials. Rather than focus on real risks, it’s much more fun for them to fantasise about un-usual and exciting scenarios: what if a high heel were to snag on a phone wire? What if an earring were to hook onto the spoke of a passing umbrella? Second: any old statistic will do in the service of health and safety. Leading the charge against stilettos was a foot expert called Lorraine Jones, who pointed out that two million working days are lost every year due to ‘lower limb problems’. Only a tiny fraction of these could possibly be blamed on shoes, but that troubled neither her nor her colleagues.
But he fact that the TUC feels entitled to hold forth on such embarrassingly trivial issues is a worrying sign of the growing power of the unions. Anyone can tackle a legitimate concern — it takes real confidence for the TUC to reach past its usual remit and start rooting around in ladies’ cupboards, deciding what they should wear.