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.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and UKHospitality, the leading industry body for the sector, have worked closely together to produce a practical resource to stop the harassment of bar and restaurant staff being seen as ‘"just part of the job". 

It advises venues to have consistent policies for dealing with customers who behave inappropriately around employees, including warning systems, instant removal or banning.

The resource also contains safety and preventative advice, such as asking managers to avoid having a single member of staff wait on a large group, when sexual harassment is more likely to take place.

The guidance has been developed for the hospitality industry but can be applied to any workplace.

More than half of women and two-thirds of LGBT people report experiencing workplace sexual harassment. But the problem is particularly acute in hospitality. The vast majority of bar and waiting staff say they have either experienced or witnessed inappropriate sexual behaviour. This can range from being asked whether they are "on the menu" to full sexual assault.

Many hospitality staff experiencing harassment do not get management support. 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. One venue’s policy for dealing with stalking was simply to allow staff to hide in the back when the customer came in.

The new guidance – Preventing sexual harassment at work: checklist and action plan – helps venues to put appropriate structures in place to protect their employees. It 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”.