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Sexual Harassment in the hospitality industry- When will it stop?

Hearing of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace is unfortunately a common occurrence, but the hospitality industry carries one of the most alarming statistics around. A survey, carried out by trade union United Voice, revealed that 89% of hospitality workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition to this shocking fact, they also found that 69% reported being touched inappropriately and 73% received unwanted sexual advances. Working in restaurants, clubs and bars is common amongst younger girls and boys, which makes these facts and figures all the more concerning.

From my own experience, I started working in a city centre restaurant not long after my 16th birthday. Unaware of the issues girls just like me face in the industry, I was excited to start, I loved the restaurant and the majority of the staff. Although, within a couple weeks of starting, problems arose that I couldn’t help but notice, things as small as comments about my body or sexual innuendos being thrown my way. These things affected me, without a doubt, leading me to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the workplace. After three long months, I informed management and they were great, comforting me and ensuring more action would be taken if I so wished. I was lucky, so many places are reluctant to act on this sort of occurence, brushing it under the carpet as an ‘industry norm’.

The #MeToo Movement has brought massive attention to sexual harassment in the workplace. The movement began in 2006 but gained momentum in 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano tweets went viral. Milano was one of the many women who accused Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault.

Although, it is no secret that the plague of sexual harassment is not restricted to the glitsy glamour of Hollywood. The UK government has now put more emphasis on the protection of workers. In July of this year, they introduced a legislation that requires employers to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment on the job. This is the first legal change since the #MeToo Movement went viral in recent years, with employers now liable if they fail to provide a workplace free of harassment. They also need to prove they have suitable anti-harassment policies in place and up-to-date training for employees. The 2010 Equality Act also protects from sexual harassment in many cases, including at work and when applying for a job.

Cases have been brought to court in the past successfully, “A 2015 employment tribunal judgment awarded £3.2 million to a female banker who had suffered sexual harassment at work, and the case was not a one-off. Financial costs aren’t the only negative impact sexual harassment can have on your organisation, either. Research shows sexual harassment victims are more likely to suffer depression, have a low opinion of their managers and want to leave their job (CIPD). That can result in higher staff turnover and poorer performance. And when cases go public, the damage to your reputation can be significant. The key to preventing these issues lies in understanding sexual harassment and managing it responsibly — ideally before it happens.”- BrightHR

Research shows that progress has been made to protect our hospitality workers but looking forward, far more needs to be done.

If you’re looking for some support, our helpline is open Monday to Thursday, 5pm until 8pm. We are here to help.

There are plenty of petitions to sign in relation to sexual harassment. See below:

By Ellie Rochell


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