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Action plan announced to tackle sexual harassment in hospitality

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has partnered with UKHospitality on an action plan to tackle sexual harassment of hospitality staff.

Action plan announced to tackle sexual harassment in hospitality

Hospitality bosses have agreed a strict zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment of staff in their venues with the launch of a new action plan on 28 April.

The EHRC and UKHospitality have worked together to create a practical resource for employers, to prevent harassment from being seen as ‘just part of the job’.

The guidance advises venues to have consistent policies for dealing with customers who behave inappropriately towards members of staff, including warning systems, instant removal or banning.

A checklist on communicating with staff, changing the workplace environment and adapting working practices is contained within the resource available to employers and businesses.

Safety and preventative advice are also detailed in the guidance. For example, managers are advised to avoid asking one member of staff to wait on large groups, where sexual harassment is more likely to take place.

According to the EHRC, although the guidance has been designed for the hospitality industry, it can be applied to any workplace.

The EHRC is “determined to crack down on any culture of unacceptable sexual harassment in bars, restaurants or hotels in Britain,” according to chief executive Marcial Boo.

He noted the essential “duty of care” all employers have to their staff. He said: “This means that inappropriate behaviour, whether lewd jokes, sexist comments or wandering hands, should never be ‘just part of the job’, even when your customers have consumed alcohol.”

More than half of women and two-thirds of LGBT people report experiencing workplace sexual harassment, a government survey found.

A 2018 EHRC report identified that sexual harassment and assault are viewed by some employers as a ‘normal’ part of a job in an environment where alcohol is consumed.

The new guidance – Preventing sexual harassment at work: checklist and action plan – defines sexual harassment as “anything that violates someone’s dignity or makes them feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated, offended or like they are in a hostile environment”.

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said: “There can be no place for sexual harassment within hospitality, so this new checklist and action plan to drive it out of our industry is a very welcome step in the right direction.

“UKHospitality has for some years engaged with employee organisations and the Health and Safety Executive to discuss solutions to safeguard hospitality staff, particularly those in potentially vulnerable roles, but clearly more needs to be done if we’re to rid ourselves of inappropriate and unwanted workplace behaviour.”

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