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Support from the STA network: advice from DWF and information on the sexual harassment prevention action plan and checklist

Mon 22 Aug 22

DWF: Stamp it out; an action plan and checklist for sexual harassment prevention in the hospitality sector.

All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment having a presence in their workplaces and to protect against their employees from experiencing it. Apart from simply being the right thing to do, this responsibility is enshrined and enforced by a number of different areas of the law, perhaps most notably by the Equality Act 2010.

The practical steps an employer can take to do this will vary according to the work environment, the workforce that they have, and the working practices which they carry out. Whilst the overall goals remain the same, the steps taken by a manufacturing business to stamp out sexual harassment, may look quite different to those in the hospitality industry.

A recent Government consultation on workplace sexual harassment  found that the 54% of the 4,215 Respondents said that they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, with the significant majority of those respondents being women. A 2018 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (aka the “EHRC”, Great Britain’s independent public body for equality issues) found that over three quarters of the respondents to their survey had the same experience. Sadly, this problem is even more acute in the hospitality sector. The same 2018 survey by the EHRC, found a recurring theme that harassment by customers in the hospitality sector was simply viewed as “part of the job”.

With the goal of stamping out sexual harassment for hospitality workers, the ECHR has teamed up with UKHospitality, an industrial body advocating for the hospitality sector. Whilst agreeing to adopt a “zero-tolerance approach” they have also developed a practical tool to assist hospitality businesses and management to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring in the first place, and ensuring that appropriate steps are taken if it does. This comes in the form of a checklist and action plan for employers.

Sexual harassment in the hospitality sector can present itself in many forms, and the checklist covers a wide gamut of situations in which it may occur. Sometimes that may be obvious, and can involve inappropriate behaviour by customers directed at staff. Unfortunately, the hospitality sector has a particular challenge that the consumption of alcohol can make this sort of customer behaviour more likely. However, it is important to also consider a broad spectrum of what sexual harassment is, and how it may present itself. Sexual harassment can also occur between colleagues, and in a more subtle manner. The checklist gives the example of a single person having the power of rota systems and distribution of tips; gone unchecked, the abuse of that power could create the opportunity for sexual harassment to happen.

In fact the checklist and guidance, in close relation to s26 of the Equality Act 2010, widely defines sexual harassment as:

“anything of a sexual nature that violates someone’s dignity or makes them feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated, offended or like they are in a hostile environment”

Employers in the hospitality and tourism sectors are strongly encouraged to adopt the checklist and ensure that they have clear and robust policies and procedures in place to protect their staff against the risks of sexual harassment whilst at work. The EHRC encourages employers to adapt the checklist as they may need to make it the most effective tool that it can be in achieving their aim.

If you would like to discuss your anti-harassment strategy in more detail, please contact Jonathan Barron, Associate, ([email protected]) and Ann Frances Cooney, Partner ([email protected]) from DWF, for further information.  

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