A London receptionist has started an online petition for it to be made illegal for women to be required t wear high heels at work, after being sent home for refusing to change her footwear.

Nicola Thorp reported for work last December for outsourcing firm Portico, who operated the reception at accountants PwC, wearing flat shoes but was told that company guidelines required two to four inch heels. She objected that male colleagues were not subject to the same rule, but was sent home after refusing a chance to go out and buy some heels.

She said she would not have been comfortable working a nine hour shift showing people round in heels.

Portico said that Ms Thorp had signed its appearance guidelines, but has since agreed to change its code so that "with immediate effect all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes".

Meanwhile Ms Thorp's petition has so far attracted more than 20,000 signatures.