We are in the UK and a friend of mine is changing roles within her job into one in which she has to wear non-slip safety shoes (PPE - Personal Protective Equipment). The standard shoes that my employer provides give her a bad back, possibly as they are not supportive enough. She has tried some good-quality insoles of my own, but these do not help enough.

She has offered to buy her own shoes, but my employer says that this is not acceptable.

I've searched for UK legislation on this, but can't find anything that helps her with regard to her being made to wear the shoes they supply. She is not disputing having to wear approved shoes.

How can she approach her employer about getting an alternative shoe choice approved?

Edit: Getting a medical note from a doctor would not be a problem. I know that employers have to supply suitable ergonomic etc equipment and we are wondering where this requirement and the PPE legislation cross over.

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    Has your friend visited a doctor with these problems? A doctor's note will almost certainly fix this issue. – Erik Sep 13 '17 at 18:32
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    Make sure she's asking the right question. She first needs to show the shoes she wants to buy comply with the prevailing regulations. – Johns-305 Sep 13 '17 at 20:13
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings Maybe, but this is not about me and the question reflects the actual situation. I don't really want my manager coming to me asking what my shoe issue is. – Steve Ives Sep 13 '17 at 21:26
  • @erik She can almost certainly get a note, but what do you think the outcome will be? Will her employer then allow her to supply her own PPE footwear do you think? – Steve Ives Sep 13 '17 at 21:27
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings That's what I've done - my problem is that a friend of mine might not be able to take up a role she wants. This is a very practical, answerable question. – Steve Ives Sep 13 '17 at 21:36

How can she approach her employer about getting an alternative shoe choice approved?

She can always simply ask if an alternative shoe could be approved. She can mention her problem with the standard offering, and show her doctor's note.

Remember however, that the employer is still on the hook for the appropriateness of the safety footwear. They will likely be reluctant to let folks just pick out whatever shoe they prefer.

Some employers have a catalog of pre-approved choices for safety equipment, from which employees can choose. Others don't offer such a choice.

And "comfort" is not a requirement mandated by the government rules, as far as I can tell.

(I'm not an expert on UK law, but have worked for a company with a significant UK presence.)

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  • Agreed, back when I worked in a construction company, comfort isn't also a priority for the workers. Safety is. – Malcolm Salvador Sep 14 '17 at 0:00
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    Doctors note is a good idea. What's the point of protecting her feet when her back is now impacted. So much for safety. – Matt Sep 14 '17 at 1:52
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    Comfort is a safety/welfare issue - or more precisely discomfort is. – Dale M Sep 14 '17 at 6:05
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    The question doesn't say the shoes are uncomfortable, but that they are giving the wearer back pain. – Erik Sep 14 '17 at 6:32

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